Sunday Independent

RIRA suspect in link to Sinn Fein

A US website records how Real IRA (RIRA) suspect, Don Bullman helped raise funds for Sinn Fein during the 1999 local elections.

The evidence is contained on a Sinn Fein US subscription website, dedicated to raising funds for the party.

On the website, Bullman, the Real IRA suspect charged last week with IRA membership, is linked to Tom Hanlon, the Sinn Fein activist and former election candidate, also arrested last week.

The link is dated June 1999, a year after the Omagh bombing which killed 29 people, including a mother and her unborn twins.

On the website, SF supporters are urged to contribute financially to Hanlon's local election campaign by sending donations to Bullman.

Both Bullman and Hanlon were arrested last week as part of a Garda investigation into IRA money-laundering.

Bullman, 30, of Fernwood Crescent, Leghanamore, Wilton, Co Cork was arrested at 3.20pm on Wednesday at Heuston Station in Dublin.

He was charged at the Special Criminal Court last week with membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann.

That is understood to mean, in effect, membership of the Real IRA, the so-called dissident republican terrorist group.

When Bullman was arrested, Gardai recovered over €78,000 in a washing-powder box.

The head of the Garda Special Branch, Det Chief Supt Philip Kelly told the court that he suspected a "money-laundering operation on behalf of the IRA".

Now the Sunday Independent has found evidence on a Sinn Fein subscription website, Irish Republican News (http://irlnet.com/rmlist/), which directly links Sinn Fein's Tom Hanlon to Don Bullman. Under the heading 'Irish News Round-Up', dated Friday/Saturday, 4/5 June 1999, the following is contained (our italics).

"Election campaign: Anyone interested in getting involved in the election campaigns of Don O'Leary (Northwest), Jonathan O'Brien (North Central); Henry Cremin (Southwest) and Kevin Power (Southeast), Tom Hanlon (Passage Town Commission and County Council, South Borough) can contact Mick Nugent (Northeast) or Paul Walsh (Southside) at the SF office, Barrack Street, tel 311 389. Donations can be sent to same address, made payable to Michael Nugent/ Don Bullman ."

The Real IRA was formed in early 1998 as the clandestine armed wing of the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, a so-called "political pressure group" dedicated to removing British forces from the North and unifying Ireland.

The 32-County Sovereignty Movement opposed Sinn Fein's adoption in September 1997 of the Mitchell principles of democracy and non-violence. While it may have adopted the Mitchell Principles, Sinn Fein-IRA has not lived up to them.

The 32-County Sovereignty Movement also opposed the amendment in December 1999 of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution, which laid claim to Northern Ireland.

Despite internal rifts and calls by some jailed members for a ceasefire and the group's disbandment, the group pledged additional violence in October 2002 and continued to carry out attacks.

Its activities include bombings, assassinations, and robberies. It was thought that many Real IRA members are former Provisional IRA members who left following the Provisional IRA ceasefire.

While the Omagh bombing in August 1998 was its most notorious act, the RIRA's other targets have included civilians, the British military, the police in the North, and Northern Ireland Protestant communities.

Since October 1999, RIRA has carried out more than 80 terrorist attacks.

Its most recent fatal attack was in August 2002 at a London Army Base that killed a construction worker.

The RIRA is reported to have 100 to 200 activists plus possible limited support from IRA hardliners dissatisfied with the IRA ceasefire and other republican sympathisers. Approximately 40 RIRA members are in Irish jails.

It is suspected of receiving funds from sympathisers in the United States and of attempting to buy weapons from US gun dealers.

RIRA also is reported to have purchased sophisticated weapons from the Balkans.

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