Monday 22 January 2018

IRA dissidents out to hijack 1916 commemorations

Gardai on high alert for possible terror attack

MURDERED: Prison Officer Adrian Ismay died two weeks after a bomb exploded under his van. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
MURDERED: Prison Officer Adrian Ismay died two weeks after a bomb exploded under his van. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
MURDERED: Prison Officer Adrian Ismay died two weeks after a bomb exploded under his van. Photo: PA
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

A botched 'legacy' deal, which could have seen the IRA disappear for good, is behind the upsurge in republican terrorism which is casting a shadow over the 1916 centenary celebrations, security sources say.

Gardai and the PSNI are now on high alert for further attacks following the murder of Northern Ireland Prison Service officer and father-of-three Adrian Ismay, 52, in east Belfast.

A group which terms itself simply 'the IRA', is believed to consist of ex-Provisional IRA members who are returning to terrorism because they claim that the British and Irish governments and, they say, Sinn Fein reneged on a deal to provide an amnesty for all Troubles- relating killings.

The deal was to have been concluded as part of a bundle of issues last October, known as the Stormont House Agreement. But it is understood it collapsed largely because Sinn Fein is insisting on cases being pursued against British soldiers and police who were responsible for killings of Catholics and IRA members during the Troubles.

This issue came to a head early last year with the arrest of three of the surviving British soldiers who were present in Derry city on 'Bloody Sunday' in January 1972, when 13 Catholic civilians were shot dead after the IRA had opened fire on members of the Parachute Regiment.

The cases being pursued through the courts against the security force members have effectively curtailed any chance of an amnesty for IRA members who also committed killings. It is understood about 200 ex-Provos potentially face arrest and imprisonment over Troubles murders and other acts of violence.

The pursuit of the ex-soldiers and police over killings has effectively cut off the chances of an amnesty that many people believed had been agreed two decades ago.

Before last October's deal failed to provide for the IRA amnesty, former Provos were already warning that there could be a "return to the trenches".

Sources in the North say that there was alarm among the security forces over the ex-Provos' access to large amounts of explosives and arms which were not decommissioned in 2006 when the Provisional IRA leadership said it had "dumped arms" and that the organisation was going out of existence.

Despite the decommissioning claims being welcomed by both governments and much of the British and Irish media, the repeated instances of Semtex explosive and assault rifles being used in attacks has shown the claims that the IRA arsenal was "dumped" were a fabrication.

It is understood that a charge of around half a kilo of Semtex was used in the under-car bomb which detonated as Mr Ismay was driving from his east Belfast home two weeks ago. He succumbed to heart failure brought on by his extensive injuries last Wednesday.

There are now fears that the 'IRA' will carry out further attacks and this has caused concerns in the Garda and the PSNI over further attacks, with the heightened concerns surrounding the 1916 events.

The ex-Provos behind the latest violence are blaming Sinn Fein as much as the British and Irish governments. A source quoted in a Northern Ireland newspaper last October at the time of the Stormont House deal said that the group did not want to see prosecutions for 'historic' crimes.

The source claimed that they believed Sinn Fein was blocking any truth and reconciliation process because this could uncover the violent pasts of many of its members, including those who benefited from royal pardons around the time of the so-called decommissioning process.

One was quoted in the Belfast Live news website as saying: "We all feel we've been betrayed. They persuaded us to go along with the peace process and made promises. And none of those promises have been kept. I say this more in sorrow than anger, but either we move on or we will end up back into the trenches. Then there will be more bloodshed as the eye-for-an-eye and tooth-for-a-tooth mentality continues over the next generations."

One 'IRA' source" said: "Because of the politicians, we have been left in legal and social limbo, with no end in sight. We joined up, we were given our orders and our equipment and we did the job. I want people to know it wasn't personal. Everyone has a right to know what happened to their loved ones. But no one - not even victims - has a right to hold the future hostage.

"I want the full truth to come out at last in a way that does not lead to geriatric men and women ending their days in jail. I don't want to see 80-year-old squaddies jailed for Bloody Sunday."

Sunday Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News