Real IRA stamp in Belfast

by Suzanne Breen, the Village

Real IRA supporters in Belfast are engraving pound coins with the
initials of the paramilitary group. Hundreds of coins are circulating
in the west and north of the city with "RIRA" machine-stamped on the
side of the Queen's head.

The DUP has described it as "a sick publicity stunt" which is
disrespectful to the British monarch. "This is insulting to the
entire population of Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant," said
Ian Paisley jnr.

"These people have no respect for our Britishness. They need to face
the political reality that the Queen's head is on our currency
because she is the British sovereign and Northern Ireland remains

He added that the inscribed coins were a grave insult to the Omagh
bomb victims. A republican supporter justified the engraving: "The
Queen's head insults Irish victims of British imperialism yet we have
to look at it every day."

Displays of paramilitary support haven't appeared on the North's
currency for years. In the early Troubles, their supporters
stamped "IRA" on coinage. During the H-Block hunger-strike,
republicans wrote 'H-Block' on banknotes to show solidarity with
hunger-strikers and raise public awareness of the campaign.

Loyalist paramilitaries have previously manufactured fake banknotes
inscribed with UDA and UVF insignia. The Real IRA was formed in 1997
by senior Provisionals opposed to the ceasefire and the Adams-
McGuinness leadership's political direction.

It initially posed a major threat to the peace process with a series
of high-profile bomb attacks on security and commercial targets but
was forced to call a ceasefire after the 1998 Omagh bomb in which 29
civilians were killed.

It restarted its campaign within 18 months but shortly afterwards
several leading figures were arrested and jailed. Although not on
ceasefire, in recent years it has been unable to mount a sustained
military campaign.

October 11, 2004

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