Bomb is intended to spread fear
The one thing about this incident in east Belfast that had the police scratching their heads was where it happened.
“It’s way out of their area of activity,” one source said.
He meant this was somewhere different for the dissidents — not far from police headquarters, not far from Stormont and in Peter Robinson’s constituency.
“Right on your own doorstep,” was how another source described it — meant to cause maximum fear.
Yesterday was about much more than putting a bomb under a car. It was about sending out messages.
The dissidents are trying to kill again — that is obvious, and still trying to derail the political and peace processes.
“This is going to unsettle unionism,” one source said.
In its wider purpose, that is exactly what that bomb yesterday was intended to do.
The woman driving the car — the partner of a police dog handler — was very lucky.
That bomb was meant to do much more damage.
So was another dissident bomb in another recent attack in Belfast. On that occasion, the device is understood to have fallen from a vehicle.
The Real and Continuity IRA and the group calling itself Oglaign na hEireann are now operating in a wider frame — spreading their activity and spreading fear.
We had been told from inside the security world that these groups had “upped their operational tempo” — that their constant focus now is targeting and attack planning.
It is not just unionists who will be unsettled by this latest development.
Think of the reaction inside the police world, and how much more checking is going to be done around houses and under cars by police officers and those closest to them.
The threat is both on-duty and off-duty — and it could have wider consequences.
Jackie McDonald — the UDA brigadier — told this newspaper: “Everybody needs to be very careful here.”
He said the bomb was intended to have a double message — “an attack on the PSNI in a unionist area”.
“The only thing they (the dissidents) can achieve here is death and destruction,” he continued. They cannot achieve a united Ireland.
“The dissidents are trying to get loyalist paramilitaries to attack ordinary Catholics. Then that opens the whole lot up,” the senior loyalist said.
The dissidents emerged in bomb attacks in Moira and Portadown in the constituencies of Jeffrey Donaldson and David Trimble in 1998.
They were trying to damage the political and the peace processes. More than a decade later, they are still trying.