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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
Ban on Real IRA welcomed
Secretary of State John Reid condemned latest attack
Secretary of State John Reid condemned latest attack
Northern Ireland Secretary of State John Reid has welcomed the US State Department's move to officially designate the Real IRA as a foreign terrorist organisation.

The dissident Irish republican group will have any assets it has in America frozen.

The group has been blamed for a series of bomb attacks in Northern Ireland and Britain.

Security forces believe it was behind an attempted mortar attack on a British army base in Bessbrook, County Armagh, on Tuesday night.

No one injured

Speaking on Wednesday, Dr Reid said: "It is the latest in a series of attacks which show the perpetrators - almost certainly dissident republicans - to be reckless and completely unconcerned about the risk to human life, whether police, soldiers or the local population.

David Trimble: Important source
David Trimble: Important source

"These dissidents should receive no succour here or anywhere else, and I particularly welcome the US Government's decision against the Real IRA in the USA, as the Irish Government and we have urged upon them.

"In the meantime, my thoughts remain with the people of Bessbrook whose rights and lives were so brutally disrupted last night," he added.

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.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Adrian was among those who died in the Omagh bomb, said: "I am absolutely delighted.

"It has been a year and a half struggle for the victims' families to get this announcement.

"I think it puts a strong message out from America - and Irish-America - that what these people do is wrong and will not be accepted."

Victor Barker, whose young son James was among those killed in the Omagh explosion, said he backed the decision.

"They are being banned because they are a terrorist organisation," he said.

"Remember, they kill little children."

Symbolic level

Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble said the decision would deny the Real IRA an important source of fundraising and refuse their apologists and supporters access to the USA.

I want to see the organisation's assets in the US immediately frozen

William Thompson

"This development is also important at a symbolic level.

"It sends a strong and clear signal that time has run out for Irish republican terrorist organisations," he said.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said making an organisation illegal might leave them feeling more important than they were.

"I have to say that I don't think it will have any effect at all," he said.

His party colleague, assembly member for north Belfast Gerry Kelly, said the legislation was "entirely a matter for the United States government".

Ulster Unionist security spokesman Ken Maginnis, said it was now for London and Dublin to re-examine their approach to the terrorists who attempted to disrupt the democratic process.

The governments should impose more effective "perhaps draconian measures", he said.

BBC TV Centre bombed, probably the work of the Real IRA
The group has attacked high-profile targets in Britain

His UUP colleague, William Thompson, said the move by the US state department had come "not a moment too soon".

"I want to see the organisation's assets in the US immediately frozen, the terrorists denied the US visas that enable them to internationalise their campaign, and a blanket ban on American citizens from donating money to their terror campaign," said the West Tyrone MP.

Alliance Party councillor Stewart Dickson said he hoped the decision would encourage Americans away from supporting violent organisations "which have tried to destabilise peace here".

The BBC's Richard Lister
"President Bush is throwing the weight of American sanctions against the bombers"




See also:

16 May 01 | Americas
US brands Real IRA 'terrorists'
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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