Analysis: Deadly copycat campaign right out of IRA’s manual
Everything they do has been done before. This is a copycat campaign – each tactic deployed by the dissidents recycled from the IRA’s war.
The shootings, the under-car booby traps, the roadside devices and mortars, the targeting — none of it is new.
What is different is the level of success the dissident groups are now having — success that in their terms means their bombs get to their targets and explode.
They almost killed Constable Peadar Heffron, the car bomb they placed outside Newry courthouse exploded, and they were able to work out a way to embarrass the security services with that bomb at Palace Barracks.
MI5 has the lead intelligence-gathering role on the dissidents, has responsibility for national security, but clearly knew nothing about the specifics of that bombing plan.
It started with the device being built in the border region before being transported to Belfast, and then a taxi driver was forced to deliver it to the doorstep of Palace Barracks.
It came in under the radar.
That is not to suggest that the pattern is a story only about dissident successes.
If you look at this year’s trend it shows 10 “successful” attacks, 64 arrests and 18 people charged.
But this is only part of the picture, the bit we see.
There is other targeting and attack planning, 40 or 50 other pieces of activity which have not got to an endpoint.
Stopping it, interrupting it, has been the “heavy workload” of those in that covert world of intelligence and security.
There will be a detailed analysis of this when the Independent Monitoring Commission next reports.
But this latest security assessment confirms many of the concerns — and specifically the worry about the advances in dissident bomb technology.
For years they have had former IRA members in their ranks. It was out of the IRA organisation that the Real IRA emerged.
Former Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde recently warned: “It would only require a few ‘experts’ to come back into play to increase the risk substantially.”
And this is a real fear — that the recent dissident successes could bring others through their door.
“They are constantly trying to bring people to them,” a security source told the Belfast Telegraph.
“I think that they are very conscious about trying to prove their operational worth.
“They are very conscious about trying to show their credibility in terms of civil administration (paramilitary punishment assaults).
“And these are their adverts for people to come to them,” the source said.
The exploding bombs have made the dissidents more of a war force — and there are concerns that they may try to play in the election period.