IRA dissidents develop rocket-propelled anti-tank weapon
Terrorists building armour-piercing weapons and missiles, say gardai
IRA renegades have honed their engineering skills to create homemade anti-tank type weapons that can penetrate armour, it can be revealed.
Gardai have uncovered evidence confirming that dissident republicans have made significant progress in developing their terror technology.
Recent attacks by the dissident groups in Northern Ireland heightened fears among senior anti-terrorist police officers on both sides of the border that their technology advances were likely to signal a new spate of attacks on PSNI vehicles and stations.
But the scale of their technological advances was not fully known until Garda finds in dissident hides were forensically examined.
A senior officer said last night: "This is a very worrying development and there are serious concerns on both sides of the border.
"The seizures have undoubtedly delivered a major setback to their deadly plans and the operation must be regarded as one of the most important strikes against the dissidents for several years.
"But it also demonstrates that, despite seizures and arrests in the past, they are continuing to develop their bombing capacity and manufacture home-made weapons," he added.
The evidence shows that the "engineering" section of one breakaway group, known as ONH which stands for Oglaigh na hEireann, has been focusing on a new rocket-propelled anti-tank weapon, which can cause more death and destruction than their previous campaign of mortar attacks. Since 2013, there has been evidence that the various groups have been improving the capacity of their mortars, but the vast majority of their attacks have either been foiled or unsuccessful.
It is estimated by security officials in Northern Ireland that for every attack carried out by dissidents, four others were thwarted. Many of the home-made missiles were manufactured in the border region, south and north, but gardai have also uncovered bomb factories deeper into the Republic, where the terror technicians were concentrating on boosting their electronic capabilities.
Recent evidence indicates that they have been working on improving remote detonation of improvised explosive devices.
And it is understood that some of the electronic component equipment discovered in the recent searches was not known previously to have been in the possession of the dissidents.
In May, the 'new IRA' was behind a failed attempt to kill police officers in Ardoyne.
It had planned on firing a mortar at a PSNI patrol as it passed along the Crumlin Road.
But the device, positioned at the top of Brompton Park, failed to go off, leaving the dissidents red-faced.
And in February, a mortar left in Currynierin, Londonderry, caused a two-day security alert.
The PSNI is dealing with around three terrorist attacks every week.
The IRA's most devastating mortar attack took place at Newry RUC station in 1985, when nine police officers were killed and 37 people were injured.
New generation of bomb makers being primed to wreak havoc
A huge haul of explosives and bomb making equipment seized in recent operations by the Garda Special Branch has resulted in a detailed forensic examination and analysis by the force's technical bureau and the Irish army's ordnance officers.
Apart from the sheer size of the seizures, it is also the quality of the finds that is arousing the keen interest of security agencies.
A study of devices used by the dissidents over the past couple of years showed that the IRA renegades were improving their capacity to launch attacks, involving improvised explosive devices, in Northern Ireland.
The recent finds, however, bring that capacity to a new level and reveal a sophistication not seen there previously, with workshop development of electronic components to the efforts to create rocket-propelled grenades.
The initial signs of improved capacity, revealed in 2013, led to speculation that the dissidents had recruited the help of former IRA bomb makers, who had been lured out of retirement.
But more recently there has been evidence that a new generation of bomb makers has been trained up.
The failure of the dissidents to bring about sufficient improvement in their weaponry, allied to the excellent intelligence that has led to a string of significant seizures, has so far saved the lives of PSNI officers, who have been targeted in the attacks, as well as civilians caught up on the periphery.
Gardai are satisfied that their recent strikes against the ONH will severely curb their plans to intensify their bombing campaign.
But officers accept that the setbacks are only temporary and further efforts will be made by the terrorists to wreak havoc in Northern Ireland.