A NEW alliance of dissident republican groups, including the Real IRA, has been branded a "criminal terrorist" group by the Justice Minister.
Declaring that they were only interested in lining their own pockets, Alan Shatter revealed that criminal rackets were at the root of the activities of the new 'IRA' which recently emerged from an alliance between the RIRA, Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), Oglaigh na hEireann and members of Eirigi.
Earlier this week, the Irish Independent revealed how a group of hardcore veteran former members of the Provisional IRA had also joined the new group since the murder in Dublin of RIRA boss Alan Ryan.
In an interview, Mr Shatter revealed that he was so concerned about the threat posed by the republican gangs that he is being constantly updated on the situation with intelligence reports from Garda HQ.
He vowed that cutbacks would not impinge on the gardai's ongoing operations against the terrorists, which he described as "relentless".
"The republican dissidents do not aspire to any cause which can be considered noble or which any right-thinking person should admire," he said.
"I call them criminal terrorists because they are up to their necks in organised crime, often so that they can maintain their personal lifestyles. That is what lies behind their feuds with other organised-crime gangs. Their activities are to do with profits, not patriotism."
Mr Shatter warned that subversives still posed a major threat to the rule of law on the entire island and were constantly watching for an opportunity to kill or maim.
Both gardai and the PSNI have been alarmed by intelligence which suggests that a group of Provos – many of them also former members of Sinn Fein – have joined the ranks of the new terror alliance.
The expertise of these individuals was used in the planning of the murder of northern prison officer David Black last November. The veterans are also involved in reorganising dissident units on both sides of the Border.
Mr Shatter said: "No one should underestimate the threat posed by subversive groups in this jurisdiction and in Northern Ireland. The recent murder of prison officer David Black is a stark reminder that they will seize any opportunity to carry out murderous attacks.
"These groups are hell-bent on attacking those institutions which are there to protect the community as a whole."
The minister said gardai had been hugely successful in tackling the dissident threat, adding: "The gardai have been relentless in counteracting these criminal terrorists and there will be no let-up in this regard."