Belfast Telegraph

Botched deal over amnesties blamed for terror upsurge

By Jim Cusack

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

Garda and the PSNI are now on high alert for further attacks following the murder of Prison Service officer and father-of-three Adrian Ismay (52) in east Belfast.

A group terming itself simply 'the IRA' is believed to consist of ex-Provisional IRA members returning to terrorism because they claim the British and Irish governments and Sinn Fein reneged on a deal to provide an amnesty for all Troubles-related 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 in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday in January 1972 when 13 Catholic civilians were shot dead by 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 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 Northern Ireland say there was alarm among security forces over the ex-Provos' access to large amounts of explosives and arms which were not decommissioned in 2006 when the IRA leadership said it had "dumped arms" and that the organisation was going out of existence.

Despite the decommissioning claims, 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 around half-a-kilo of Semtex was used in the under-car bomb that 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 the 'IRA' will carry out further attacks and this has caused concern in the Garda and the PSNI, 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.

One "IRA source" said: "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."

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