Sunday 15 September 2019

Garda and PSNI fear Continuity IRA dissident's release following Border bomb attack

Arlene Foster DUP MLA at a PSNI Road Block at Gortinacarrow Co Fermanagh about Two miles from the scene at Wattle Bridge
Arlene Foster DUP MLA at a PSNI Road Block at Gortinacarrow Co Fermanagh about Two miles from the scene at Wattle Bridge
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

The imminent release from prison of a significant figure within the Continuity IRA is causing concern among senior anti-terrorist police officers on both sides of the Border.

Police chiefs believe that a resurgent Continuity IRA (CIRA) is responsible for Monday's sinister attempt to murder PSNI officers and British army explosive experts by luring them into an ambush near Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh, which is located close to the Border.

There is also rising frustration among Garda officers at the Government's failure to allocate additional resources to the force's northern region to combat the threat posed by dissident republican groups in the run up to Brexit.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his ministers have been refusing to publicise how they intend to react to a no-deal Brexit in security terms, because they are worried that this could be interpreted as a signal that the re-introduction of Border checks is now being regarded as inevitable.

Security chiefs have been warning since the start of the year that the release of several significant figures in dissident groups from the nation's top security jail in Portlaoise in 2019 would create fresh headaches along the Border in the event of Brexit-related political chaos.

For the past couple of years, the CIRA has been virtually off the radar in security circles but its re-emergence recently, particularly in areas where it was traditionally strong such as the Border counties, has caused a rethink for anti-terrorist chiefs.

Initial examinations of the blast near Newtownbutler suggest that CIRA is responsible for the attack and is again becoming a potent terrorist force.

Officers believe a hoax explosive device, planted in the same area last June, coinciding with the Ulster football final between Donegal and Cavan in Clones, was used by CIRA to allow it to examine how the PSNI reacted to the alert.

This information could have been used to help it set up the planned ambush at the weekend, where another hoax device was used to lure the PSNI into the targeted area and then detonate a viable device, either through a timer or a remote control.

The key CIRA figure due for prison release is regarded by police on both sides of the Border as being experienced in handling explosives and weapons.

And this faction, along with the New IRA, is expected to become more active between now and October 31 as it attempts to fill the political vacuum.

Plans to create a third armed support unit to cover the Border area, announced last Christmas, have not yet been implemented and there are no indications yet of additional resources being sent to the Border divisions to supplement the existing strength.

The two existing armed support units (ASUs) are based in Dundalk, Co Louth, and Ballyshannon, Co Donegal.

Under the new plans, these are being expanded to provide a 24-hour armed service with a third unit based in the Cavan-Monaghan division to fill the lengthy gap between the locations of the other two.

But so far the only additional resources allocated to the region are comprised of new graduates from the Garda training college in Templemore while extra armed back-up has been confined to a number of Special Branch patrols sent up from Dublin.

Irish Independent

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