The Real IRA

Omagh proved to be a mistake in more ways than one.
But then as republican analysist Tim Pat Coogan pointed out the Real IRA, the "Hamas of republicanism" were always "susceptible" to blunders. Or indeed infiltration. Leading republican Gerry Kelly suspected a hidden hand and revealed that republicans had weeks prior to the bombing actually discussed the possibility of a "nationalist town being [targeted] next." And not only did Omagh fit this criteria but Sinn Fein are the dominant local party. And it was of course the Republican Movement rather than the British that were the political targets.

If Ballymoney almost destroyed Unionism then Omagh certainly revived it. Within hours the issue of decommissioning was resurrected; a moratorium on prisoner release, as well as internment north and south demanded. In addition to elected republicans being kept out of Stormont, right wing sections of the media wanted the Good Friday Agreement rewritten as well. All done in the knowledge that any substantial retreat from the fundamentals of the agreement would cause the peace process to collapse. But for all concerned, leader writers and bombers alike: 'Provisional IRA remained the enemy'.
Which is why Omagh was not an attack on 'the Brits', but was a last desperate throw to make Stormont, the symbol of sectarian apartheid safe and thereby PIRA strategy untenable. In recognition that the very moment revolutionary nationalism crossed its threshold: the talisman of colonial rule; the concept of a 'protestant state for a protestant people' and the reason for being of the 'Real IRA' were all rendered instantly obsolete.

Reproduced from RA vol 3, Issue 3, Oct/Nov '98