The Real IRA was created in 1997, when the Provisional IRA entered into negotiations for a ceasefire with Northern Ireland unionists. Two members of the PIRA Executive, Michael McKevitt and fellow Executive member and common law wife Bernadette Sands-McKevitt were the core of the new group. They rejected the principle of non-violent resolution that formed the basis of the ceasefire negotiations. This principle had been stated in the six Mitchell principles and the Belfast Agreement (which would be signed in 1998). Real IRA members also objected to the division of Ireland into a southern independent Republic and Northern Ireland; they wanted an undivided Irish republic, with no compromise with Unionists (those who want to join in a union with the United Kingdom).
The Real IRA used terrorist tactics on a regular basis to hit economic targets, as well as specific symbolic human targets. Improvised explosive devices and car bombs were typical weapons.
The Real IRA was responsible for the Omagh bombing on August 15, 1998. The attack in the center of the Northern Irish town, killed 29 people and wounded from 200 – 300 others [reports vary]. The devastating attack prompted severe hostility to RIRA, even from Sinn Fein leaders Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams. McKevitt was convicted for "directing terrorism," in 2003, for his participation in the attack. There were other arrests of members in France and Ireland in 2003.
Although the Real IRA has fractured considerably, MI5, the UK's intelligence agency, called it the UK's primary threat in July, 2008, based on surveillance evidence. MI5 estimated in July 2008 that the group has about 80 people willing to conduct bombings or other attacks.