Belfast Telegraph

Fears as dissidents ratchet up pressure in run-up to Christmas

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

Justice Minister David Ford's recent warning to Stormont MLAs that a terrorist attack in the run-up to Christmas is highly likely was chilling, but not unexpected.

For weeks dissident republicans have been slowly ratcheting up their campaign, from low-level hoax security alerts to letter-bombs. They also claimed the murder of Kevin Kearney in Alexandra Park off Belfast's Antrim Road last month.

But Saturday's bomb discovery in Monaghan, a short distance from the Republic's border with Northern Ireland, is perhaps the most alarming statement of intent.

It is on a different scale, dwarfing any letter or pipe-bomb. It could have been another Omagh.

The device used to murder 29 innocents in Omagh in 1998 consisted of 160kg of fertiliser-based explosives.

Such was the public outcry and international disgust that it humiliated the Real IRA into calling a ceasefire.

Despite that, similar attacks have happened since then. A 300lbs device was abandoned outside Castlewellan in January 2009 and a 600lbs device was defused near Forkhill, south Armagh, that September.

And in April 2012 a huge, fully primed 600lbs bomb was discovered in an abandoned van on the Fathom Line at the border near Newry.

Mr Ford's warning last month was chilling but prescient – there are still those out there who have learned nothing from the failed terror campaigns of the past.

And if the terrorists are lucky once, it will not be them left picking up the pieces.

Belfast Telegraph

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