Continuity IRA says it will end its 'futile' campaign
Gardaí are assessing a statement claiming that dissident republican group the Continuity IRA (CIRA) has disbanded from midnight.
The CIRA has been riven by faction fights over the past few years following penetration by the Gardaí and, more recently, by British security agency MI5.
A statement released in Limerick said the group had decided to end its "futile" armed campaign. However, gardaí were not certain whether the statement had the full support of the terrorist organisation or related only to one faction, which in the past was prominent in Limerick.
The alleged 'army council' of that faction was arrested in November 2014 after the suspects met in a house in Newry, which had been bugged by MI5 for three months. Seven men subsequently appeared in court on terrorism charges.
The Continuity IRA's political wing, Republican Sinn Féin, emerged after a major row within Provisional Sinn Féin in 1986 and a walkout from an ard fheis.
It began its terrorist operations in 1994 when detonating a 2lb Semtex bomb in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.
Two years later, it claimed responsibility for a massive bomb blast at the Killyhevlin hotel in Enniskillen during a Catholic wedding reception. Seventeen people were injured.
Among its worst atrocities was the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon, Co Armagh, in 2009. He was the first member of the PSNI to be murdered by terrorists.
In 2012, the Irish Independent revealed that members of the CIRA planned to murder a British soldier as he returned to Limerick on home leave for Christmas but the plot was foiled by gardaí. The plot was well advanced when it was disrupted and the CIRA had sourced a weapon, and chosen the location and the gunman.
As a result, the soldier remained in the UK for Christmas. Following the arrests in Newry, it emerged in court that MI5 had recorded 65 hours of meetings.
Penetration of its ranks by gardaí resulted in the seizure of weapons and explosives belonged to the dissidents and led to internal fighting over the identity of garda "spies".
The statement issued last night to the 'Limerick Leader' thanked members of the clergy for helping them to reach the decision to disband.
It added: "We know the great hurt and pain we have afflicted on communities both North and South and, for that, we offer our sincerest apology and hope by this action, no more pain or loss will visit them."