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Northern Ireland Politicians Question IRA Fundraising - 2001-09-26

A senior pro-British politician in Northern Ireland is calling on the United States to outlaw a U.S. group that raises funds for those who want the troubled province to join Ireland.

Northern Irish politicians are raising questions about the source of funding for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The vice president of the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party, Jeffrey Donaldson, says the U.S. government should clamp down on the New York-based group, Noraid, which raises funds for the Irish republican cause.

Mr. Donaldson explained his views in an interview on British radio. "I think it would be a logical step to proscribe organizations like Noraid, who are the support base for terrorist groups like the IRA," he said. "Without their funding, the IRA would not have nearly the same potential for violence that they currently have."

The chairman of Noraid, Paul Doris, denies his group has any connection with the IRA.

He says Noraid only sponsors non-violent activities, such as giving financial assistance to the families of Irish republicans who have been killed or imprisoned for their political beliefs. Mr. Doris accuses the unionist leader, Mr. Donaldson, of trying to exploit the U.S. attacks. "Well, I think it is disgraceful that Jeffrey Donaldson would try to score political points at the expense of almost 7,000 dead in New York City and Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania," he said.

The debate comes as President Bush has announced a crackdown on global terrorism that includes freezing financial accounts linked to terrorists.

Noraid is registered in the United States as a non-profit fund-raising group, and Mr. Doris says there has been no contact from the U.S. government about Noraid's activities.

The Irish Republican Army is the principle paramilitary group that has fought for the unification of Northern Ireland with the Irish republic.

The IRA declared a cease-fire as part of a peace agreement that took effect on Good Friday in 1998. However, the IRA's refusal to disarm has led to the worst political crisis in Northern Ireland since the peace accord was signed.