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Bertie Ahern Niall Carson via PA Images
State Papers

Real IRA not ‘overly active’, Ahern told Blair two weeks before Omagh bomb

The bombing was the single greatest loss of life of the Troubles.

BERTIE AHERN TOLD Tony Blair two weeks before the Omagh bombing in August 1998 that the Real IRA did not seem to be “overly active”.

In a telephone conversation between the two leaders on 31 July 1998, the then-Taoiseach shared information on the paramilitary splinter group with the British prime minister, newly released State Papers show. 

“Our security people, like yours, I think overstate the position,” he said.

“But even when we check it out they obviously have somewhere close to a hundred people.

“The quality of them I think are probably, you know, good enough in that they have an awful lot of the wrong people from our point of view but they don’t seem to be overly active.”

Ahern continues: “There are some of the key people who are hanging around but they’re not doing an awful lot and the surveillance is showing that they’re not.”

“Now there is a hard core that of course never stop, never has stopped,” he says.

“As long as it doesn’t numerically get too big it means we can keep a good eye on it,” Ahern tells Blair.

Just over two weeks later, 29 people were killed and 220 injured in Omagh in the Real IRA attack.

The bombing was the single greatest loss of life of the Troubles.

Ahern tells the prime minister: “There’s always the worry of course that somewhere along the way somebody slips you but I think our guys feel fairly happy that they, you know they’re keeping a handle on it.”

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