Terrorist threat is deadly as ever -- Ahern
Published 01/03/2010 | 05:00
JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern last night warned dissident activity in the North is as dangerous as anything seen throughout the Troubles.
His grave assessment came as dissident republicans were blamed for a suspected mortar bomb fired at a police station in Northern Ireland on Saturday night.
The device missed the barracks in Craigavon, Co Armagh, and caused no injuries.
A year ago, a policeman was shot dead by the Continuity IRA not far from the scene of the attack.
Dissidents are believed to have been behind last week's murder of Kieran Doherty in Derry, as well as a 250lb car bomb which caused damage to the wall and security hut at Newry courthouse, Co Down on Monday.
That recent activity was last night described as a "worrying trend" by Mr Ahern.
"There's a threat that's as dangerous as anything that we've had during the 30 years of our troubles. There's no doubt that if you look at the patterns, particularly since last December, there's a growing escalation of events -- fairly major events, 13 major events since last December," he said.
"The gardai and the PSNI are very much aware of this and particularly in the aftermath of the murders of the PSNI officer Carroll and the two British soldiers. They have been on high alert since that time. There's clearly an effort by these people to escalate the events."
The capability of the dissident groups is growing because there has been an effort to bring some of the groupings closer together in a case of "cross fertilisation", he said.
And he said the groups were trying to raise the security levels in the north so as to illicit a robust response from the British Government. Such groups are seeking to bring British troops back on the streets of Northern Ireland and destabilise the political parties of the North who are overseeing the peace process, the minister added.
Mr Ahern's remarks come after another viable mortar device was found close to Keady police station, south Armagh, recently.
In March last year PC Stephen Carroll was shot dead by the Continuity IRA as he answered a call for help in Craigavon.
The police station targeted on Saturday is in the Brownlow area of Craigavon, a sprawling urban centre of housing estates and roundabouts. It was blown up in 1993 by the Provisional IRA along with a nearby health centre and school.
Sinn Fein assembly member John O'Dowd claimed Saturday's attack was wrong and should not have been carried out.
He challenged those who claim to speak politically for these factions to tell the republican and nationalist community exactly how these sorts of activities, or indeed the recent murder in Derry advance the cause of a united Ireland.
"The fact is they don't. A peaceful and democratic path to Irish unity exists and it is the path that the vast majority of republicans are now on," he said.