13 May 2006

RIRA leader in Armagh quits

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

The Real IRA’s leader in south Armagh has quit the organisation in the wake of a foiled cigarette-smuggling operation in Spain.
The Newry-based paramilitary, who is an experienced bomb maker, is said to be disillusioned at the Real IRA’s failure to step up its military campaign.
Last night, other leading members of the organisation were openly questioning the leadership, most of whom are locked up in Portlaiose prison in Co Laois.
“From their cells, they have promised a military campaign but there is nothing happening,” said one dissident republican.
The latest blow to the Real IRA came when Spanish police apprehended a consignment of bootleg cigarettes worth more than €1 million (£685,000). Two men were arrested in connection with the find.
Hardliners in the Real IRA were shocked to learn that the seized container contained no weapons or ammunition.
This has led some to claim that the Real IRA, under its current leadership, is more interested in making money from smuggling cigarettes than in mounting a military campaign against the British presence in Ireland.
“Some prisoners in Maghaberry are already openly questioning the leadership, and it will not be long before there is a split. Already there are talks with some senior figures in the Continuity IRA, and defections to the organisation cannot be ruled out,” the source said.
The Continuity IRA is reorganising in parts of the North. Security services on both sides of border have predicted a step up in the group’s campaign.
Last month, a 113-kilogram car bomb assembled by the organisation was discovered in Lurgan, Co Armagh. Two men have been charged in connection with the find. The intended target of the bomb is believed to have been Lurgan PSNI station.
In a statement released to Daily Ireland, the Continuity IRA said it would target England’s Queen Elizabeth if she went ahead with a visit to Ireland next year. Both the Garda and PSNI fear that those disillusioned with the Real IRA will defect to the Continuity IRA and increase the latter organisation’s capability to launch military operations.

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