Growing fears that New IRA planning attack in Britain
Published 23/05/2016 | 02:30
Gardaí have stepped up their monitoring of suspected members of the New IRA as a result of intelligence fears that they are preparing for a campaign of violence in Britain.
The New IRA has been responsible for a renewed spate of terror activity in Northern Ireland in recent months.
British security agencies now say they have unspecified intelligence indicating that the terrorists are planning to strike in Britain shortly.
Senior garda anti-terrorist officers are working closely with their counterparts in the PSNI and police forces in Britain as a result of the warning.
Officers say they have no information to back up reports circulating in Northern Ireland that the group has gained possession of a large haul of Semtex explosive, which had previously been under the control of the Provisional IRA.
But as a result of the intelligence, MI5 has raised the threat level to Britain from Northern Ireland-related terrorism from "moderate" to "substantial".
This means a terrorist attack is regarded as a "strong possibility". The threat level within Northern Ireland remains at "severe", suggesting that an attack is highly likely.
Last March, the New IRA claimed responsibility for planting a bomb under the car of prison officer, Adrian Ismay, in east Belfast. Mr Ismay died two weeks later from his injuries.
The New IRA is a relatively new dissident republican grouping, consisting of members of the Real IRA, the Derry-based Republican Action Against Drugs group and former members of the Provisional IRA's east Tyrone brigade.
Their ranks include a number of experienced gunmen and those with explosive expertise.
The New IRA is now regarded on both sides of the Border as the most dangerous dissident republican organisation on the island and has taken over the mantle from the OnH group since the garda arrest of its leader and other key players.
It has strong support in parts of Belfast, Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh, which are its strongholds in the North.
Garda Special Branch officers and the crime and security section in the Phoenix Park are keeping a close watch on personnel they believe to be ready to provide logistical support to the groups in terms of manufacturing explosives and supplying vehicles to units operating across the Border.
The latest intelligence about a likely attack in Britain is not specific and does not contain details about what type of terror strike is planned or where.
Earlier this year, Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Mahony, who is in charge of the force's crime and security branch, said recent seizures were evidence of the increasing sophistication of dissident "engineers".
During 2015, gardaí arrested 31 people in connection with inquiries into dissident activity and 22 were charged with terrorist-related offences before the Special Criminal Court.
Mr O'Mahony said garda interventions and arrests had, without doubt, saved lives.