RENEGADE republicans have launched a major fundraising push to finance a wider campaign of terrorist violence both at home and overseas.
The new alliance of dissidents, which is recognised by police as posing the biggest threat to peace since the Provisional IRA, has stepped up its involvement in cross-border rackets.
Officers have also uncovered evidence indicating that a fresh influx of former Provisional IRA activists are being attracted into money-making schemes.
"There is a serious revival on the dissident side in rackets like cigarette smuggling and oil laundering and it is noticeable that ex-Provos are also coming more to the fore", one officer told the Irish Independent.
Known mainstream activists are believed to be also hiding cash sums built up in the past by investing in properties listed in other people's names.
The new alliance, forged during the summer between the Real IRA factions in Dublin and Derry, the Derry-based Republican Action Against Drugs and non-aligned republicans in east Tyrone and Belfast, is now regarded as the most dangerous gang operating on the island.
It is also seen as having potentially the greatest capacity to mount a terror offensive in Britain – an aim that has consistently eluded both the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA.
But that is still thought to be some way off and the British security agency, MI5, advised the government in London to downgrade the threat level there from substantial to moderate.
The alliance is maintaining its links with criminality and taking profits from the racketeering, as well as extorting from pubs and clubs by offering them 'security' advice and, where possible, grabbing a slice of the profits that are made by drug traffickers.
But it is also tightening the noose on those who were suspected in the past of stuffing a share of the funds into their back pockets, instead of handing it over to the organisation.
This was particularly evident in the Dublin Real IRA faction when it was led by Alan Ryan up to his murder last September.
The subsequent crackdown by the gardai on dissident groups after the paramilitary display at Ryan's funeral has produced intelligence showing that it may be necessary to upgrade the estimate of the strength of the gangs.
The firing of a volley of shots at the funeral and the emergence of a plot involving the Continuity IRA in Limerick to shoot a British soldier as he spent Christmas at home with his family in the city also showed that the terrorists based on this side of the Border did not intend to confine their role to simply providing logistical back-up for active units operating in Northern Ireland.
Developments that have occurred over the past three months – including the murder of Northern prison officer David Black and the attempt last week to blow up a police officer and his young family in east Belfast – guarantee that the monitoring of suspect terrorists in the new year will not be scaled back, irrespective of the cutbacks that face An Garda Siochana.