IRA Dissidents Threaten Top Sinn Fein Politician

By: SHAWN POGATCHNIK AP
By: SHAWN POGATCHNIK AP

DUBLIN (AP) - Irish Republican Army dissidents threatened Sunday to ill top Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness and resume attacks in ngland as part of their efforts to wreck the IRA cease-fire and Northern Ireland power-sharing.

An Easter statement from the outlawed Real IRA distributed to Irish media branded McGuinness a traitor because he holds the top Irish Catholic post in Northern Ireland's power-sharing government with British Protestants.

The statement warned McGuinness - a former IRA commander - that "no traitor will escape justice regardless of time, rank or past actions. The republican movement has a long memory."

Supporters later read out the statement at small rallies beside the graves of IRA dead at cemeteries in Belfast and Dublin. Anti-terrorist detectives kept a discreet watch on both events.

McGuinness offered no response. He previously has appealed to the public to tell police about dissident IRA activities and says extremist threats won't deflect him from cooperating with Protestant past enemies.

The Real IRA also claimed responsibility Sunday for a long-disputed killing of a Sinn Fein official who was exposed in 2006 as a British spy. Denis Donaldson, Sinn Fein's former chief legislative official inside the power-sharing government, was shot to death at his rural hideaway in northwest Ireland four months after he confessed his duplicity at a Sinn Fein news conference.

An Irish weekly newspaper, the Sunday Tribune, published an interview with an unidentified Real IRA spokesman in which the official warned that the group intends to resume attacks in London. The group in the past has issued statements via the Sunday Tribune.

The Real IRA last launched attacks in the British capital in 2000, when it struck the headquarters of the MI6 spy agency with a rocket and detonated a car bomb outside a British Broadcasting Corp. office.

The Real IRA killed two unarmed British soldiers March 7 as they collected pizzas outside a Northern Ireland army base. They were the first killings of troops in the British territory since the IRA's 1997 cease-fire. Another splinter group, the Continuity IRA, killed a policeman March 9 in what was the first killing of a police officer since 1998, the year of Northern Ireland's Good Friday peace accord.

The dissidents oppose the IRA's 2005 decisions to renounce violence and disarm, and remain committed to the belief that Northern Ireland must be forced out of the Irish Republic. The Good Friday pact reinforced the right of Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom as long as most of its residents prefer this.

Easter for decades has been a special holiday for Irish republicans, who don white lilies on their lapels as they honor the rebel dead of past generations - and offer conflicting claims about the lessons of Irish history.

The Republic of Ireland government and leaders of Sinn Fein, the major Catholic-backed party in Northern Ireland, also organized their own separate ceremonies Sunday to commemorate the Easter Rising, the 1916 insurrection in Dublin that inspired Ireland's later war of independence from Britain.

At midday, Irish President Mary McAleese laid a wreath in central Dublin as about 300 soldiers marched down O'Connell Street and its colonnaded General Post Office. It served as rebel headquarters during the weeklong rebellion, which left 450 dead and was a military failure - but radicalized Irish opinion after Britain executed 15 rebel leaders.

Today's rival IRA factions and the two major Republic of Ireland political parties all claim direct descendance from the 1916 rebels.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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