Semtex find sparks worrying questions
The discovery of a quantity of what is believed to be Semtex plastic explosive at a block of flats in north Belfast is worrying on a number of fronts.
Firstly, where did the explosives come from? There has been no indication from the intelligence services or the Chief Constable that dissident republicans have been able to import arms or explosives.
Large quantities of Semtex were brought into Northern Ireland during the Troubles, given to the Provisional IRA by Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi. The question that is now being asked by both the public and police officers is whether the explosives found in the New Lodge Road date from those shipments.
If they do, why were they not destroyed as part of the IRA's decommissioning process when it promised to put arms and explosives beyond use? Two years ago, Semtex was also found in the same block of flats and the fear is that more could have been put in caches rather than destroyed.
These are uncomfortable questions for mainstream republicans to answer, but certainly the public should be told exactly how these explosives still remain where they can be obtained by people hell bent on causing death and destruction. Mere condemnation in this instance is not enough.
The 1.5 kilos of Semtex uncovered is enough to make several booby-trap bombs or even prime a spectacular explosion. There is no doubt that dissident republicans are desperate to inflict casualties on the security forces and prison officers and we should all be relieved that these explosives have been discovered before they could be put to any vile purpose.
To date, the work of the intelligence services and the PSNI has stymied an untold number of planned attacks, but the serious threat from dissidents remains, even to the extent of attacks in other regions of the UK.
Of course, the fact that explosives have now been found twice in occupied blocks of flats demonstrates how little regard the dissidents have for people living in the areas where they operate.
They are simply concerned with implementing their twisted vision of Irish unity by force, but it is clear that they have little support and incidents like this will only diminish it further.
There is no place for the gun in Irish politics, north or south of the border, and certainly no place for Semtex. Now we need to find the people who would use it and put them in jail.