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Tuesday, September 8, 1998 Published at 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK

Continuity IRA - the struggle goes on?

The Portadown bomb in February: linked to CIRA

Continuity IRA remains the only known Republican paramilitary group in Northern Ireland not to have declared a ceasefire.

It appears unlikely that the group - thought to have only about 20 members - will follow the Real IRA's lead and openly call an end to its campaign of violence in the immediate future.

Hours before the Real IRA announced its ceasefire, CIRA contacted a Dublin newspaper declaring its fight would continue.

The caller, identifying themselves by a code word, said: "the struggle goes on" and warned there would be further attacks on "British crown forces".

They also claimed responsibility for a gun attack on an RUC Land Rover in Armagh last Friday. The RUC, however, said it had no record of any such attack taking place.

CIRA had widely been thought to have been inactive in recent weeks, so much so that Sinn Fein has repeatedly called for the group to state whether or not it had secretly suspended its armed struggle without telling anyone.

Its refusal to openly declare a ceasefire will mean its members in jail will not be eligible for early release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Hard-line splinter group

Like the Real IRA and several other Republican splinter groups, CIRA has opposed the approach of Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA to the ongoing peace process.

[ image: A Continuity IRA bomb destroyed an Enniskillen hotel in 1996]
A Continuity IRA bomb destroyed an Enniskillen hotel in 1996
CIRA has been hostile to any peace talks and any settlement short of a united Ireland.

Its roots lie in a split in the Republican movement in the late 1980s when some members of Sinn Fein angry at the party's decision to end its policy of abstention from the Irish parliament broke away and formed a new party called Republican Sinn Fein.

The security forces say CIRA was set up as the military wing of Republican Sinn Fein, although the party says that is not the case.

Unionists have also in the past claimed that CIRA is a covert offshoot of the IRA created as a surrogate identity to allow the provisionals to carry on violent attacks while still officially observing a ceasefire.

Bomb attacks

CIRA has not been widely blamed for any murders in Northern Ireland, but has been held responsible by the security forces for a number of attacks.

The group has carried out small bomb attacks in Belfast and more 'successful' attacks in County Fermanagh where they destroyed the Killyhevlin Hotel at Enniskillen in 1996 and a nightclub in the town in January this year.

The RUC have also linked it to bomb attacks in February in Moira, Co Down and Portadown, Co Armagh.

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