LONDON, JULY 31 -- The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility today for the bombing death of Ian Gow, a British lawmaker, because of his friendship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and his role in developing British policy on Northern Ireland.

In a statement sent to a British domestic news agency, the group said that as long as Britain controls Ireland, "the IRA will continue to strike whenever and wherever the opportunity arises."

Gow, 53, one of Thatcher's most ardent loyalists and a senior Conservative member of Parliament, was killed Monday when a bomb exploded under his car parked at his home in Hankham, 50 miles southeast of London.

Gow was chairman of a parliamentary committee on Northern Ireland that discusses affairs of the province, but that has no legislative power.

Police believe that at least two people were involved in the bombing attack.

The IRA statement noted that Gow was a "close personal associate" of Thatcher and that he was Thatcher's parliamentary private secretary and one of her closest advisers from 1979 to 1983.

IRA operatives have carried out nearly 20 attacks in mainland Britain in the past 20 months, including recent bombings at the London Stock Exchange, a traditional Conservative Party club and a Royal Air Force base.