- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2001

It took Americans to fund terrorist Irish republicanism, and it took an American to fracture one of the last remaining but most potent paramilitary organizations, the Real IRA. David Rupert, a trucker from Illinois who raised funds for the dissident group, has worked hand in hand with the FBI and Britains intelligence service, the MI5, for the past three years. The information he provided from his knowledge of the groups inner circle is helping the international intelligence force to piece together information about the organizations command structure and funding arrangements for its arms purchases a money trail that leads back to Ireland and the United States, according to a Financial Times article.

Mr. Rupert, who is in protective custody, will testify this month at the trial of Michael McKevitt, the reputed leader of the Real IRA, which killed 29 persons and injured 200 others in a bombing in Omagh in 1998. The Oct. 15, 1998, Omagh car-bombing was one of the deadliest ever. Many of its victims, both Catholics and Protestants, were in the marketplace after police had unwittingly directed them there following a terrorist warning that a bomb had been placed elsewhere. The trial is set for April 24 in Dublin. Irish American activists labeled their former colleague a traitor and a rat. But the former activist´s willingness to his risk his life for the sake of justice will help remove a major opponent to the Northern Irish peace process.

For a people who have been struggling to overcome an age-old conflict pitting Catholics opposed to British occupation against Protestants who are for it, Mr. Rupert´s work with intelligence officers could lead to a diffusion of tensions inside the country as well as the decrease of crime outside the country. Inside the country, hopes were high after the Good Friday accords, signed in 1998, set in place power sharing institutions for Protestants and Catholics. When republican militants from the Provisional IRA, a dominant grouping of militarists from the now-splintered IRA signed a cease-fire agreement in 1997, most Ulster voters had hoped paramilitary activity would be a thing of the past. But when the Real IRA, a faction of those who still could not put down their guns, bombed an Omagh marketplace in the middle of the day, tensions rose in paramilitary groups in republican as well as pro-British unionist circles. Now, with Mr. Rupert´s help, the dissident group´s leader has been arrested, and several other potential replacements are awaiting trial.

Outside the country, a portion of $14.2 million in the funding of terrorist republican activity has now been traced to the United States and to Ireland, and anti-terrorist forces are attempting to intercept the group´s arms purchases still in Europe, the Financial Times report said. Mr. Rupert, who had become a trusted friend of different armed republican factions and their Irish American donors, passed along information on bank transactions, fund-raising activities and member lists of the groups´ action committees based anywhere from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts to New York and Rhode Island, London´s Sunday Times reported. The money was then funneled on to Ireland. This was quick work for a man who had only joined their ranks in 1997, shortly after he gave up his trucking business. But within a year he was disillusioned with the movement, and began giving information to U.S. and British intelligence.

Like the FBI double agent Robert Hanssen, Mr. Rupert was able to pull off his double life with ease. Like Hanssen, he had a lot of money that came from hard-to-trace sources. But unlike Hanssen, his decision to go public with this information, which will likely invite the backlash of his former colleagues, will not give him a hand full of diamonds and the gruesome satisfaction of seeing Americans killed. It will mean he and his wife will have to live under the U.S. government´s protection, with new identities and a new home. It will mean, in some ways, becoming invisible.

Moreover, it could mean the beginning of the end for the Real IRA in the long term. For the present, American David Rupert´s exposure of the group´s activities stands as a warning for those involved in the funding and execution of Northern Irish paramilitary activities, both here and abroad. For the future of the people of Ulster, it is a step towards peace.

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