A splinter dissident republican group has said it was behind the Palace Barracks bombing in Holywood – dismissing claims of Real IRA involvement as “unfounded”.
A caller purporting to represent the organisation known as Oglaigh na hEireann yesterday contacted a Belfast Telegraph journalist.
He gave a codeword, and said its so-called Belfast brigade carried out the attack in which a taxi driver was forced to drive the bomb to the military base which houses the local headquarters of MI5.
“A previous claim by the Real IRA has proved to be unfounded,” the caller said, adding: “After consultation with this group, we believe the claim, to have allegedly been made by the Real IRA, was a deliberate attempt by British intelligence services to cause confusion and tension within the republican movement.”
The PSNI has not confirmed which group they believe was behind the attack, but are understood to be investigating a number of claims of responsibility.
Security sources said it can prove difficult for police to attribute an attack to a particular dissident group because of the fluidity of membership.
One said: “Within the three main groups — CIRA, RIRA and ONH — there are individuals who might do a favour for one of the other groups or decide to give assistance to a group in a particular area. There are also non-aligned individuals who don’t want to be part of the group but for their own reasons decide to help out. The groups are nowhere near as disciplined as PIRA was.”
According to security sources the Holywood bomb consisted of less than 100lb of explosives, but still had the potential to kill anyone caught within 100 yards of the blast.
The Belfast Telegraph has also learned that an arrangement between the Ministry of Defence and a major taxi firm meant that the taxi driver targeted by the terrorists on Sunday night had permission to pass through the initial security gate at Palace Barracks.
It is understood that the driver had been ordered to drive the bomb through, but he fled at the front of the gates, potentially saving the lives of any security guards on duty.
The new Justice Stormont Minister David Ford and the Republic’s Justice Minister Dermot Ahern are expected to meet in Belfast on Friday. The two ministers will discuss a range of cross-border crime and justice issues, but the security threat will be top of the agenda.