Move is a step in right direction in ongoing battle against terror
Published 21/07/2014 | 02:30
WE have had fresh reminders on both sides of the border that dissident republican terrorists still continue to pose a serious threat on this island.
But as a result of the excellent work being carried out by the gardai and the PSNI, and the strong relationship between them, that threat has been more limited than in the past.
Their terror campaign, at the moment, is largely confined to Northern Ireland and they do not appear to have the capacity to extend it to the British mainland.
But they remain sufficiently active to justify the threat level in the North being described as "severe" – an assessment that has the full support of the gardai.
Like their predecessors in the Provisional IRA, the dissidents use the Republic for logistical and financial back-up for their terror gangs.
Over the past three months we have again seen evidence of that activity on this side of the border.
In April gardai seized an estimated €10m in high quality forged banknotes. In May the gardai discovered a large home-made bomb in Co Louth as it was being prepared for use against a security target across the border, and in June the Special Branch disrupted a planned Real IRA attack in Tallaght, south Dublin.
Since the Omagh bombing, which killed 29 people in August 1998, we have had tough laws to combat the threat with the legislation introduced in the wake of the blast being used to lock up the leader of the group responsible for the atrocity, Michael McKevitt, for 20 years.
But there have been other key areas where the law needs to be tightened. Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald now intends to create three new offences to seal off the gaps.
It is a move that will be welcomed by all law-abiding citizens – and will give additional powers to crack down on those who play a major role shoring up terrorist groups.
The legislation will hit those recruiting and training new members, and those using republican rallies and issuing pamphlets to provoke others to commit terrorist offences.
As Ms Fitzgerald said in the Dail recently: "The terrorist groups are opposed to the benefits that have flowed from the peace process and are determined to undermine it. The State must retain, in its laws, the capacity to defeat them."
She now intends to back up those words with action.