Gardai investigate former top Provo over MI5 bomb
Gardai are targeting key terror figures, including a former Provisional IRA "army executive" member, responsible for masterminding this week's car bomb blast outside the Northern HQ of the British intelligence agency, MI5.
The campaign, which will be matched by similar operations in the North, will include increased surveillance and intelligence gathering on the targeted figures.
A senior anti-terrorist officer said last night: "Apart from the value of these operations in the short term in disrupting their activities and plans to cause mayhem, they will also be of immense importance in the longer term in building up dossiers on these people."
Members of the Garda Special Branch and the Emergency Response Unit are already involved in the intelligence drive against the top dissidents.
But it is expected that the Criminal Assets Bureau will also be deployed in the coming weeks in a concerted attack against the targets.
The former senior Provisional, who is from Louth, is currently the leader of the most active faction of the renegade Real IRA.
He resigned from the Provisionals' 12-person "army executive" along with Michael McKevitt after a stormy meeting in Falcarragh, Co Donegal, in October 1997, over a decision to accept the peace process, and shortly afterwards the two men became founder members of the Real IRA.
After a security summit in Belfast yesterday, Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy emphasised the importance of a multi-agency approach in tackling terrorism and said the two recent bomb blasts in Holywood, Co Down, and in Newry, had strengthened the resolve of his force and the PSNI to work side by side in confronting the dissident threat.
Police forensic experts on both sides of the Border are also carrying out a detailed analysis on the two bomb blasts -- the first bombs to be detonated in the North in almost a decade.
They are trying to establish the identity of those responsible for manufacturing the bombs by comparing them to explosive devices used during the Troubles to determine if former Provisional "engineers" are involved.
Detailed briefings on the dissident threat were provided by Mr Murphy and PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggot during the summit, which lasted 90 minutes at Stormont and was described later as symbolic.
The summit provided an opportunity for Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to meet with his new Northern counterpart, David Ford for the first time since the latter was elected to the post.
Mr Ahern said later the two police chiefs had left them in no doubt that co-operation between their forces existed at an extremely high level.
Mr Ford said he wanted to work closely with Mr Ahern to look at ways in which they could co-operate across the criminal justice system to make Ireland, north and south, a better and safer place.