FBI MI5 agent tells Dublin Court
Real IRA tried to develop links with LTTE

by Dushy Ranetunge

A trial held in Dublin in the Irish Republic on June 2003 has revealed attempts by the Real IRA (Irish Republican Army) to develop links with the Iraqis and the Tamil Tigers.

The trial was that of Michael McKevitt, a reputed leader of the Real IRA.

According to a statement of the witness McKevitt, who had also hoped to obtain state sponsorship for his organisation, sent representatives to human rights convention in Geneva hoping to make contacts.

The LTTE frequently held "human rights" protests opposite the UN in Geneva and it seems that this "human rights" forum had emerged as a convenient venue to make contact with other terrorist groups.

David Rupert, an agent for the FBI and MI5, giving evidence said a British investigation was launched after he reported McKevitt discussing Iraq.

McKevitt, was charged with being a member of the Real IRA and with directing terrorism. He is the first person to be charged under legislation introduced after the Omagh bomb attack in 1998, when 29 people were killed. Rupert (51) said McKevitt told him of possible contacts with the Tamil Tigers and said it was "unfortunate" his organisation did not have suicide bombers.

Rupert further said: "He (McKevitt) had told him that he had contact with a lady with Irish connections, who had links with the Tamil Tigers.

Deirdre McConnel of an Irish Catholic background, with all the related historical baggage of the IRA and the Irish struggle had been active in the LTTE for a number of years. She is at present working as a LTTE humanitarian lobbyist in the LTTE led front, the Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR). The Manchester branch of the TCHR was at 88 College Road, Manchester, M16 8FH. UK. This was also her home address. She was previously attached to the notoriously radical and leftist Manchester Teachers Union.

Deirdre McConnel’s long association with the LTTE and service to the terrorist cause has made her a trusted and valuable operative for the organisation, which sent her on various missions all over the world. When the LTTE boatyard with a mini submarine was discovered by Thai authorities, the LTTE sent her to Phuket in Thailand. Christy Reginald Lawrence, a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee who had a Norwegian passport, operated the boatyard. Her mission to Thailand was to secure the release of Christy Reginald Lawrence and her "advice" as the representative from a "human rights organisation from the UK" to the Thai authorities was to release him or deport him to Norway and not to Sri Lanka is clear evidence of the level of trust and confidence the LTTE has placed in her.

During the late 1990s, when Mr. S. K. Wickermasinghe was Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to the court of St. James, Deirdre McConnel and Ms. Eliza Mann (Sri Lankan Tamil) tried unsuccessfully to meet Foreign Ministry officials in the Republic of Ireland to brief them of their particular brand of human rights relating to Sri Lanka.

Other than contact with the LTTE via Deirdre McConnel, McKevitt and Rupert had also discussed the possibility of Iraqi sponsorship. Rupert said his subsequent role was to keep his "ear to the ground" for this type of state sponsorship would happen, McKevitt told him he "suspected that they would come knocking on the door looking to make contact". Rupert said that in late 2000, as he drove around the Carlingford Lock area with McKevitt, the accused man pointed to a spot where the IRA "had killed 19 British soldiers" and went on to detail how it was done.

He also pointed out a British naval cruiser in the middle of the lock which had been "a provocation" to republican groups and it had long been contemplated how to do damage it. "This was soon after the American ship bombing in the Yemen (the USS Cole). He said it was unfortunate for the IRA - Oglaigh na hEireann - that they didn’t have any suicide bombers to ram an explosive device into it.