domenica 3 febbraio 2008
Real IRA: 'The war is back on'
THE Real IRA says it is preparing to launch a new offensive after a major three-year internal reorganisation.
The paramilitary organisation said police officers in the north would be primary targets in its campaign.
"With more attacks on the RUC/PSNI we believe we can reach the stage where British soldiers are brought back onto the streets to bolster the cops.
"This will shatter the facade that the British presence has gone and normality reigns.
People will once again be made visibly aware that we remain occupied, " the dissidents said.
In its first interview in five years, two members of the Real IRA army council met the Sunday Tribune at a location near the border. The newspaper was also given photographs and a DVD of six heavily-armed Real IRA members on a training exercise near a British security watchtower along the border.
The Real IRA said that, after substantial restructuring, which saw some members in Belfast and elsewhere dismissed and units that "weren't up to scratch" disbanded, it now had "a new confidence".
The attempted murder of two police officers in Derry and Dungannon in November showed "the IRA believed it could kill a cop and take whatever the state threw at it". The Real IRA hasn't bombed Britain in six years. When asked if this was to change, the army council representative said: "We will attack Britain where and when we see fit. The law of averages suggests the longer a target hasn't been hit, then the more likely it is to be attacked."
The paramilitary group warned of firebomb attacks on shops and businesses in the north. Although it views members of the Stormont executive, including Martin McGuinness, as "British ministers" and hence "legitimate targets", it is unlikely to attack them.
"Targets aren't always chosen on legitimacy but on whether hitting them would be politically expedient or counter-productive and on the likely effect on public support, " the Real IRA leader said. But this decision would be "kept under review".
In a controversial claim, the Real IRA alleged it had "minimal involvement" in the Omagh bomb: "Our codeword was used . . . nothing more. To have stated this at the time would have been lost in an understandable wave of emotion. That is the only detail on Omagh we're prepared to give at the moment."
Previously, it had been claimed in some quarters that while the Real IRA made the bomb, Continuity IRA members planted it. However, the Real IRA is now alleging it didn't even make the bomb. Coming 10 years after the atrocity in which 29 people were killed, and without any detailed information to support its claim, the Real IRA's statement will be treated with scepticism.
The Real IRA denied reports it wanted to unite with Continuity IRA or INLA. It would work with both "on issues where there is common ground", but there would be no joint operations. "We are not seeking to amalgamate three armies into a 'super republican group', " the army council member said. He denounced Sinn Fein and Provisional IRA leaders for urging people to pass information about Real IRA attacks to the PSNI. The Real IRA said it wasn't engaged in any direct or indirect talks with the British or Irish governments.
What are the Real IRA's objectives?
Our goal is the same as the IRA's has always been . . . to force a British withdrawal.
We're no different than the men and women of 1916, 1919, or 1969. Past generations of republicans are always used to condemn the present generation. There's a long tradition of comparing the 'good old IRA' with the 'bad new IRA'. It's nonsense. We follow in the tradition of Pearse and Connolly.
Who are the Real IRA's targets?
Those who promote and protect the illegal occupation of the six counties . . . British soldiers, RUC/PSNI members, and British government ministers. A pragmatic approach has always been taken to prison officers depending on conditions in the jails.
Does that mean members of the Stormont executive, including Martin McGuinness and other Sinn Fein politicians, are viewed as British ministers and thus legitimate targets in Real IRA eyes?
Those running the Stormont administration are as much British ministers as those sitting in Downing Street. However, targets aren't chosen always on legitimacy but on whether hitting them would be politically expedient or counter-productive and on the likely effect on public support.
The IRA never attacked the British army in Scotland because of its support base there and what was seen as solidarity with a fellow Celtic nation. But the decision on whether to actually hit a legitimate target is one that is kept under review.
Since its formation, the Real IRA has been unable to kill a single British soldier or police officer. From its own perspective, that must represent complete failure.
What are its future plans?
We're emerging from a threeyear period of reorganising in preparation for a renewed offensive. Success shouldn't be judged solely on body count so far. If there was minimal visible military activity in recent years, there was plenty of behind-the-scenes restructuring. Important groundwork has now been completed. In November, the IRA carried out operations within days in three separate locations, attempting to kill RUC/PSNI officers in Derry and Dungannon, and planting a bomb on Remembrance Sunday in Newry.
That shows increased confidence. The IRA believed it could kill a cop and take whatever the state threw at it. The Derry RUC/PSNI target survived because the metal headrest of his car seat took most of the shotgun blasts. The British are worried. There was talk of a 'new style' unarmed RUC/ PSNI in non-combative clothing. Well they're back wearing flak jackets and still carrying guns. Strand Road barracks in Derry is being refortified to make it rocketproof.
With more attacks on the RUC/PSNI we believe the stage will be reached where British soldiers are brought back onto the streets to bolster the cops. This will shatter the facade that the British presence has gone and normality reigns. People will once again be made visibly aware that we remain occupied.
In terms of other internal changes, people have been dismissed from the movement in Belfast and elsewhere. Units that weren't up to scratch have been disbanded. Mistakes were made previously but more rigorous vetting of volunteers is now in place.
The Real IRA hasn't carried out attacks in Britain for six years. Has it any plans to do so?
We will attack Britain where and when we see fit. The law of averages suggests the longer a target hasn't been hit, then the more likely it is to be attacked.
Have the attacks on the US in 2001 and subsequent acts not transformed terrorism and made Real IRA activities like leaving bombs on railway lines and incendiaries in shops look low-level and amateurish?
In the context of 800 years of struggle against the British, 9/11 is irrelevant. Don't ridicule planting incendiaries in shops.
They cause millions of pounds worth of damage, present little risk to civilians and volunteers, and cost the movement minimal expense. A few incendiaries can have the same impact as a 500lb bomb without the risks. Incendiaries will not be the main thrust of our campaign, but they will play a part.
After the appalling loss of life in the Omagh bomb, the Real IRA called a ceasefire but later resumed attacks. Doesn't that show utter disrespect for human life and contempt for public sentiment?
The IRA had minimal involvement in Omagh. Our code word was used, nothing more.
To have stated this at the time would have been lost in an understandable wave of emotion. That is the only detail on Omagh we're prepared to give at the moment. Omagh was an absolute tragedy. Any loss of civilian life is regrettable. No one in any army, except perhaps those in the American or Israeli forces, wants to kill civilians. But wars don't end because civilians die in them.
How can the Real IRA possibly succeed in securing a British withdrawal when the larger and more powerful Provisional IRA failed?
The Provisional IRA didn't fail as an organisation, it was failed by its leadership. It had ample weaponry and members. It could have been much stronger militarily. The decline in operations was due to its leadership. Winning elections became more important than winning the war. We are not unthinking militarists. Politics is important and there are those who share our political analysis [apparent reference to 32 County Sovereignty Movement], but we aren't answerable to any political party and that's a strength, not a weakness.
How can the Real IRA justify a campaign with no electoral mandate?
Oglaigh na hEireann derives its mandate from the illegal occupation of Ireland and the right of Irish people to take up arms in defence of national sovereignty. Only during their latter years did the Provos receive an electoral mandate.
And 1916 and 1969 had no electoral mandate.
What weapons does the Real IRA have?
Hand-guns, rifles, submachine guns, assault rifles, plastic explosives and our own improvised weapons. We have added to our arsenal since 1997 and are always seeking new ways of re-arming. Of course, the acquisition of weapons is a problem but it's one which the IRA has overcome and will continue to overcome.
Did loyalist drug dealers transport an arms haul for the Real IRA, as stated in a recent newspaper report?
Absolutely not. This allegation is part of an ongoing criminalisation campaign against us. We believe MI5 is the original source of the story. We've no links with the Shoukri brothers, whom we find morally repugnant. It's ludicrous to suggest that, unable to transport weapons safely ourselves, we turn to known British agents.
Given the huge technological advances in British surveillance, how can any republican campaign be 'successful'?
We've no illusions about these advances which we have learned, and are still learning, to overcome. Historically, the British have enjoyed more sophisticated equipment than republicans and we're still here. We don't underestimate the British . . . indeed we tend to overestimate their capabilities.
How many members does the Real IRA have? What is their gender, geographical and age profile?
We have enough volunteers to carry out the army's functions. We're currently recruiting across Ireland. I can't be more specific for security reasons. Women volunteers play a full and active role. Oglaigh na hEireann is open to over17s. We have a balance between youth and experience. Many volunteers were active [in the Provisional IRA] and new volunteers are being trained up.
Why would a young person join the Real IRA when it offers only jail or the grave?
For the same reasons as they've always joined the IRA . . . to challenge British sovereignty in Ireland. On joining, they're made aware of the possibilities of jail or the grave. If they're still interested, they're put through a rigorous training period. If after this they're at all unsure, they can walk away. The IRA is a volunteer army.
Life in the North has improved hugely for Catholics. No grave socio-economic injustices exist that could possibly justify an armed campaign.
The IRA campaign was never about reformism or civil rights, it was about resisting foreign occupation. The IRA is committed to fighting for the freedom of our country, not just improving the social and economic lot of an occupied people. It's not a case of 'Brits out' if people are poor, then 'Brits in' if there are loads of jobs.
FBI/MI5 agent Dave Rupert infiltrated the Real IRA, leading to the conviction of its then leader, Mickey McKevitt.
Hasn't the Real IRA huge infiltration problems?
Dave Rupert was a paid perjurer and proven liar. He faces execution from the IRA as does anyone else who places her or himself in that position.
We've been no more infiltrated than any other republican organisation. If internal rules and regulations are implemented, these problems are less likely to recur. The Provos have had Freddie Scapatticci and Denis Donaldson and we're only at the tip of the iceberg in establishing how far they were infiltrated.
Paddy Murray, a republican widely associated with the Real IRA, has recently faced substantial allegations that he is a British agent? What is your position on him?
How is the Real IRA funded and how does it compare financially to the Provisional IRA?
As an organisation we continue to seek funds. It would be inappropriate to give further details. Towards the end, the Provisional movement became more interested in monetary gain than challenging British rule. This led to a situation where corporate America had more influence over the republican movement than IRA volunteers.
We don't wish to go down that route. You can't appeal to millionaires and multinationals and remain engaged in revolutionary activity. He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Former Real IRA leaders in Portlaoise prison accused the external leadership of criminality and lining its own pockets. Were they right?
These allegations were fully investigated and found to be without foundation. They were a red herring to facilitate someone else's agenda. Our volunteers on the outside paid no heed to them which is why there was a split in the jail but the movement outside remained 100% intact.
Does the Real IRA plan to unite with the Continuity IRA and INLA?
The IRA will work with the Continuity IRA and INLA on issues where there is common ground. But there are no organisational links and there will be no joint operations. We are not seeking to amalgamate three armies into a 'super republican group'.
What is the Real IRA's relationship with the Provisional IRA?
We're not under threat from them as we were in the past, with activists being abducted, beaten and threatened with death. We have never attacked the Provisional IRA despite attacks on us and volunteer Joe O'Connor's murder.
Has the current Real IRA leadership held direct or indirect talks with the British or Irish governments and does it have channels of communication with either?
We haven't engaged in any talks and there are no such channels. We're certainly not talking to them through Bradley, Duddy or any Redemptorist priests. [Denis Bradley and Brendan Duddy from Derry were go-betweens for the Provisionals and MI6;
west Belfast priests have acted as mediators with Dublin. ] Under what conditions would the Real IRA call a ceasefire?
A declaration of intent by the British to withdraw their military presence from Ireland and to cease all parliamentary activity here.
Real IRA's second interview marked by extreme security I WAS taken to a secret location near the border where I met two representatives of the Real IRA army council.
Only one spoke during the interview.
I have interviewed all the major paramilitary groups during the conflict and never before have such extreme security measures been taken. I was ordered to leave my coat, handbag and mobile phone at another location.
The Real IRA representative wore dark civilian clothing and a balaclava with holes for his eyes throughout the three-hour interview. He was well-spoken and courteous, even when complaining about the nature of some of the questions.
He wasn't nervous but he was ultra-cautious in some of his replies. This was the Real IRA's first media interview in five years.
The paramilitary group gave the Sunday Tribune photographs and a DVD of six members involved in a training exercise along the border. A British army watchtower can be seen in the background. The men are armed with AK47s, AKMs, a machine pistol with a silencer, a Dragunov and a hand-gun.