THE Provisional IRA – and not a dissident republican group – was responsible for planting the two mortars near the Border in south Armagh last week, the Sunday Independent has learned.
It is understood the devices were planted after a warning was issued to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) two weeks ago to stop disrupting the multi-million euro diesel smuggling rackets along the Border, which is controlled by the south Armagh IRA.
The Provisionals, who were supposed to have disbanded and stopped involvement in criminal activity after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, are still firmly in control of south Armagh and are preventing policing in an area that's politically dominated by Sinn Fein.
The warning to the PSNI to stay out of south Armagh is believed to be in anticipation of police raids arising from the murders of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe and young south-Armagh man Paul Quinn, who was beaten to death in October 2007.
A south-Armagh man was arrested by gardai three weeks ago and questioned about the murder of Mr Quinn, who was beaten to death by a squad of 11 IRA men armed with steel rods.
Sinn Fein has been facing calls to get the IRA to admit the murder in the same way it admitted the murder of prison officer Brian Stack in March 1983 after his family asked Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams for an explanation.
Mr Adams accompanied Mr Stack's two sons, Austin and Oliver, in a blacked-out van to a meeting with an IRA figure near Dundalk at the start of August of this year.
Following this meeting, the family of Mr Quinn asked that Mr Adams also get the IRA to admit responsibility for the murder of their son.
The mortars planted by the IRA last week were placed near the Quinn family home in Cullyhanna. Gardai believe this was a warning not just to the Quinn family, but also to the PSNI to give up on their campaign for justice for Mr Quinn. In its warning, the IRA did not give an exact location for the mortars and the British Army and PSNI had to mount a major clearance operation that effectively sealed off the village for nearly a week.
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The mortar incident also came after a Sinn Fein press officer was taped making allegations about the murder of Mr Quinn, 21, and Det Garda Donohoe, 42.
Gardai have established the identity of the family blamed by the Sinn Fein official for the murder of Det Garda Donohoe. But they have dismissed any involvement by the family in the murder.
Sinn Fein officially ended its boycott of policing in Northern Ireland in January 2007, but this has never been applied by the party or the IRA in south Armagh.
Gardai say the IRA continues to control the area and threatens and beats anyone who challenges their authority. Mr Quinn was beaten to death as an example to others, gardai say.
The investigation into the murder of Det Donohoe has been hampered because the PSNI has been unable to gain public support due to the fear of the IRA. Even though Det Donohoe's killers are not members of the IRA, people in the area are still afraid to be seen helping the PSNI.
Three members of the gang live in the Crossmaglen-Cullaville area. The 27-year-old who gardai believe fired the shot that killed Det Donohoe comes from just south of the Border in the Ravensdale area but fled to south Armagh after the murder.
He subsequently travelled abroad. Another who fled is understood to have returned and is being hidden.