DISSIDENT republicans have issued a chilling threat to Irish people serving in the British armed forces and warned that they are a "legitimate target" for the Continuity IRA.
The threat was made openly in Limerick city on behalf of the Continuity IRA yesterday and in front of gardai.
The warning to Irish men and women serving in the British military, which came at an annual Sean South commemoration, was issued on behalf of Continuity IRA prisoners in Portaoise prison.
The event was organised by Republican Sinn Fein (RSF) and took place at the republican plot at Mount Saint Lawrence cemetery in the city.
The threat comes less than a month after the Irish Independent revealed that gardai in Limerick had foiled a Continuity IRA plot to murder a British soldier on a visit home to the city over Christmas.
Michael Kiely, from Corbally, Limerick, read the Continuity IRA statement in front of 60 people at Sean South's graveside.
Mr Kiely said: "We have seen from recent years that in this city of Limerick that Irishmen are considering a career in the British army – the same British army that holds six of our counties.
"Whether they are motivated by financial reasons or a sense of adventurism, we take this opportunity to say that the moment you don a British uniform, you become a legitimate target for the IRA."
Mr Kiely also warned that police officers serving in the North are also "legitimate targets".
He added: "The lessons of Irish history teach us that as long as the British presence remains in Ireland, there will always be those who oppose it by whatever means necessary.
"The war is not over – it will only be over when every last British soldier is driven from our shores."
Officers kept a close watch on participants of the Republican Sinn Fein parade through Limerick before the threat was made at the cemetery.
They gathered initially at Bedford Row in the city at 2pm and were led by a piper and nine men in paramilitary uniform through the city centre.
Participants marched along Henry Street, Sarsfield Street, William Street, Mulgrave Street and on to the cemetery.
The event takes place each January and is closely monitored by gardai.
Yesterday's open threat comes after a British soldier – who is in his 20s and from Limerick – could not travel home to his family for Christmas after gardai learnt that the Continuity IRA intended to kill him.
Gardai also learnt of a prior threat against the same soldier last August.