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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 19:00 GMT 20:00 UK
US brands Real IRA 'terrorists'
The aftermath of the bombing of Omagh, Northern Ireland
The Real IRA was responsible for the Omagh bombing
The US State Department has officially designated the Irish dissident republican group the Real IRA, as a foreign terrorist organisation.

This means the group, which has been blamed for bomb attacks in Northern Ireland - including the 1998 Omagh bombing - and mainland Britain, will have any assets it has in America frozen.

A notice in the Federal Register said Secretary of State Colin Powell made the designation, which took effect on Wednesday.

The sanctions also mean:

  • Suspected Real IRA activists denied US visas
  • Ban on Americans giving them money or support

The US State Department said it was also designating the 32 County Sovereignty Movement - said to be the Real IRA's political front - and the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association.

It said in a statement: "This action makes it illegal for persons in the United States, or subject to US jurisdiction, to provide material support to the Real IRA or any of its named aliases, requires US financial institutions to block assets of the designated groups and enables us to deny visas to representatives of the group."

Mr Powell, in consultation with the US Attorney General, had decided to outlaw the group because "since 1998 it had carried out a campaign of terrorism in Northern Ireland and on the British mainland".

The US State Department said the group had "made it clear that its terrorist attacks are motivated by its desire to undermine the Good Friday Agreement, which was approved by the major political parties in Northern Ireland".

Mr Powell had made his decision following "close consultations" with both the British and Irish Governments, the department said.

Real IRA attacks

BBC State Department correspondent Richard Lister said the move was expected and is likely to be welcomed by the UK Government, which sees the group as a major threat.

He said that London had been working behind the scenes to ensure the Bush administration took this step.

The Real IRA has been held responsible for some of the most high-profile terrorist attacks by an Irish organisation in recent years.

It said it carried out the 1998 bombing in the town of Omagh in Northern Ireland, which killed 29 people and injured more than 200.

BBC TV Centre bombed, probably the work of the Real IRA
The group has attacked high-profile targets on the British mainland

It has also been blamed for attacks on the BBC's Television Centre, London's Hammersmith Bridge and the headquarters of the British Secret Service, MI6.

In its annual report on global terrorism, the US State Department has estimated that the total membership of the dissident republican group has more than doubled, to between 150 and 200 people.

The State Department said the group dif receive considerable support in the US. Richard Lister reports that many Irish Americans who are opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process have switched their allegiance from the mainstream IRA.

America is home to the world's biggest Irish diaspora, with more than 40 million people of Irish descent - more than 10 times the number of people currently in the Republic of Ireland.

The BBC's Bob Perry
"The Real IRA will be treated as a terrorist group under US law"
Jack Holland, Irish Echo, New York
"It would have come about eventually"
The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"The... organisation itself would have hoped to inherit financial and political support within the Irish American community"




See also:

16 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Ban on Real IRA welcomed
16 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Who are the Real IRA?
04 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Dissident republicans: Terror threat
09 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
'Progress' in NI peace talks
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