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Ex-IRA activists ‘not joining dissident ranks’

Northern Ireland’s paramilitary watchdog has no evidence of senior IRA activists joining the ranks of dissident republican organisations.

But the Independent Monitoring Commission, whose latest report is due to be published next week, does not rule out groups such as the Continuity and Real IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann continuing to get “advice” and “encouragement” from one-time significant IRA figures.

“There is no evidence of substantial people crossing the line and becoming formally involved in dissident organisations,” a source told the Belfast Telegraph ahead of the report’s expected publication next Wednesday.

The latest assessment from the four-man commission comes on the heels of dissident attacks on Newry courthouse, Palace Barracks military base and Newtownhamilton PSNI station.

These point to improved bomb-making and an ability by the dissidents to hide their plans from MI5 and the police.

In its last report, back in November, the IMC described the threat as the most serious since it began its work back in 2004.

And, according to one well-placed source, the latest assessment is not “marking up any change in the high level of threat”.

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“Serious? Yes,” the source said.

“But is this some type of political deterioration? No,” he added.

The source said the election results had shown where support is in the republican community — a reference to the near 172,000 votes given to Sinn Fein. Despite the recent attacks, the source said: “We should not get into a flap.”

He was stressing the importance of keeping the dissident threat in context.

Intelligence reports point to continuing targeting and attack planning — aimed primarily at police officers, both on and off- duty.

But the dissidents were not able to mount a major attack in the election period.

Sources are not trying to downplay or dismiss the threat. One recently commented that “somebody could be killed any day and probably will”.

That is the seriousness of the threat. But this report due in a few days will write that threat into its proper context.

It is nothing like as serious as that once posed by the IRA.

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