Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Dissidents are getting a lot better at what they do

Two things said by former chief constable Sir Hugh Orde in a recent speech in Oxford are worth revisiting after the Palace Barracks bomb. He said this “new campaign” would “ebb and flow in response to the developments within the political sphere”.

There is no doubt that the bomb at the barracks housing the Ulster HQ of MI5 was timed to coincide with the devolution of policing and justice powers.

But something else the now president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said is worth thinking about.

He told his audience that: “It would only require a few ‘experts’ to come back into play to increase the risk substantially.”

The dissidents are getting better at what they do. Look at the under car booby trap devices in east Belfast last October, and underneath Constable Peadar Heffron’s car in January.

An attempt to use the device in north Belfast failed because the magnets weren’t strong enough to attach the bomb.

Then think about the roadside device abandoned in Forkhill last September, and the partially exploded bomb outside the Policing Board in November.

Failures. Then what they would term successes of recent bombs in Newry, and Palace Barracks.

Something has clicked — suggesting better technical know-how and expertise.

When the Independent Monitoring Commission next reports, answers will be sought.

The last time it assessed dissidents, it spoke of a small number of “former PIRA members” giving “assistance” and providing “services”.

What does that mean? Is that assistance and those services helping make the dissidents more dangerous?

Something has changed in this recent pattern of dissident activity, and mainstream republicans will notice that change.

There is nothing new about the tactics. They are taken from the IRA book; some of the know-how has unquestionably been learned inside the IRA.

Worryingly, success will mean greater confidence to try again.

It will, says one republican source, “give a new lease of life” to those organisations that continue with the republican fight.

A week ago, the dissidents warned that their actions will speak louder than 1,000 words.

Bombs, such as the one placed at Palace Barracks, is their way of getting themselves heard. Yesterday, on a big political day, the news was about their bomb.

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