Dissident republicans in Belfast are engraving pound coins with the initials of the breakaway ‘Real IRA’.
Hundreds of coins are circulating in the west and north of the city with “RIRA” machine-stamped on the side of the Queen’s head.
A republican supporter justified the engraving: “The Queen’s head insults Irish victims of British imperialism yet we have to look at it every day.”
But the DUP has described it was disrespectful to the British monarch. “They need to face the political reality that the Queen’s head is on our currency because she is the British sovereign and Northern Ireland remains British,” said Ian Paisley jnr.
Displays of IRA support haven’t appeared on the North’s currency for decades. In the early yearts of the conflict, their supporters stamped “IRA” on coinage. During the H-Block hunger-strike, republicans wrote ‘H-Block’ on banknotes to show solidarity with hunger-strikers and raise public awareness of the campaign.
However, the ‘RIRA money’ represents a vanishingly small fraction of the extra 245 million pounds the British government said last week it will spend on ‘combatting the dissident threat’ in the North of Ireland.
Confirmation that the additional money would be made available from the British Treasury came on Thursday, following a request this month from PSNI chief Matt Baggott.
The package will consist of an extra £200m over four years, with a further £45m made available from the Six-County Executive directly.