Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Dissidents will be planning to attract hardened ex-IRA men

Since the start of 2009, the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA have stepped up their efforts to attract new recruits and have enjoyed some success.

A terror attack to coincide with the timing of the handover of policing and justice powers was not unexpected, in view of the build-up in the dissident campaign over the past 15 months, leading to the threat level being raised by the PSNI to “severe”, which is its highest level since the dark days of the Omagh massacre in 1998.

But there was no intelligence to indicate where the attack might take place, which underlines the serious problems confronting the security forces in the run-up to the elections.

The Real IRA, which has come to represent the main dissident threat to the peace process, quickly put out a statement claiming its members were behind the bomb blast.

However, there are also other groups capable of causing mayhem in Northern Ireland, and between them they can field a couple of hundred activists.

Many of them are inexperienced, having joined up after the ceasefire, and in some areas are lacking in leadership.

But also included in their ranks are former Provisionals, who have become disaffected with Sinn Fein's role in the peace process and are slowly returning to military rather than political ways.

The drain from the Provisional movement to the breakaway groups is still regarded by anti-terrorist officers as relatively minor. Most of the defectors have simply faded into the background.

But there is evidence in recent months that some of the factions have attracted hardened operators, whose terror skills have sharpened the threat posed by the dissidents.

Since the start of 2009, the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA have stepped up their efforts to attract new recruits and have enjoyed some success in Northern Ireland, although few rallied to their call south of the border.

The Independent Monitoring Commission also confirmed a small number of ex-Provisionals had been lending their expertise to the dissidents.

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