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Friday, 20 October, 2000, 08:31 GMT 09:31 UK
'Split' on thwarting Real IRA
Omagh bomb site
Real IRA bomb tore the heart out of Omagh
The Irish government has denied that it and the British government are giving the United States conflicting advice over what action it should take against the Real IRA.

Reports from the United States suggested that the Irish government disagreed with a call from the British government for the dissident republican group to be placed on the official US list of international terrorist groups.

The list suggestion came in an interview in the Chicago Tribune newspaper in which Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson called on Washington to designate the Real IRA "a foreign terrorist organisation".

It would list the Real IRA dissident republicans, who are opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process and carried out the worst single atrocity of the Troubles, killing 29 in Omagh in 1998, with groups including the Basque separatists ETA and Hezbollah.

Mr Mandelson said this would help to prevent the Real IRA from raising funds in the US.

Peter Mandelson: Holding talks at Stormont
Peter Mandelson: Advice to add Real IRA to terrorist list
But some leading Irish American activists fear the move could prove counter productive.

They have argued that adding the Real IRA to the list would provide the dissident faction with a publicity coup which might foster more support among Irish Americans than currently exists.

The Irish government was also reported to be unhappy about the idea, before denying any difference of opinion on Friday.

In a statement an Irish government official said the government was not opposed to any measure and that the question of how to deal with dissident republicans was being kept under constant review.

There has been a long history of Irish American support for republican organisations in Northern Ireland.

Particularly in the 1980s, NORAID was very successful in raising funds for the Provisional IRA, before the IRA called its ceasefire in 1994.

In August some of the relatives of those killed in Omagh bombing mounted a protest outside a west Belfast pub where a fundraising night for dissident republicans.

Prominent New York republican Martin Galvin, who is a supporter of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, a group with links to the Real IRA, was due to speak at the event.

Security discussions

The difference between the two governments on how to advise the US over the Real IRA emerged after police chiefs from both sides of the Irish border met in Northern Ireland on Thursday to discuss the security situation and the threat from dissident republicans.

The Real IRA has carried out a number of recent attacks on police and army bases.

And recent explosives and arms finds have been linked to the organisation.

RUC Chef Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne were joined at the meeting at Hillsborough near Belfast Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson, Irish justice minister John O'Donoghue.

In a statement after the meeting ended, those involved said they had "reviewed the overall terrorist threat".

The Omagh bombing investigation is believed to have been a major item on the agenda of the discussion.

Further arrest in Omagh inquiry

The Irish government has been under pressure from the main opposition party Fine Gael over the effectiveness of the investigation into the car bombing of Omagh, County Tyrone on 15 August 1998.

As well as the 29, men, women and children killed, after the bombers telephoned misleading warnings about where the bomb had been left, more than 200 people were injured when it exploded in a busy shopping district.

Fine Gael has questioned the effectiveness of new laws passed to help convict the bombers and demanded answers to reports the Irish government interfered in police investigations of the bombing for political reasons.

Only one person has been charged over the bombing, and is awaiting trial in the Republic of Ireland.

Meanwhile, the police have released without charge another two men brought in for questioning for the past three days in connection with the Omagh bombing.

A third man was released without charge on Wednesday night. Police are still holding a fourth man, who was detained in County Monaghan on Thursday.

The disagreement on how to deal with dissident republicans also comes against a backdrop of political instability in Northern Ireland and followed the murder of dissident republican Joseph O'Connor in Ballymurphy, west Belfast last weekend.

The Real IRA said he was a member of its organisation and his family has accused the Provisional IRA of the killing.

BBC NI chief security correspondent Brian Rowan
"The Real IRA is most active when the peace process is most vulnerable"
See also:

20 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Dissident threat reviewed at talks
17 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Irish parliament debates Omagh inquiry
02 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Police 'know' identities of bombers
27 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
'Examine reaction to bomb warnings' - QC
22 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Death of toddler in bomb recalled
21 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Omagh blast ended young girls' hopes
19 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
'Never again' plead Omagh family
10 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Omagh programme was 'media justice'
10 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Mobile phones key to Omagh probe
18 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Omagh interference reports 'a slur'
18 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Omagh relatives mount protest
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