A former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable has rubbished New IRA claims that a car bomb failed to explode because of the “level terrain” travelled by the policeman targeted in last Saturday’s attack.
Alan McQuillan dismissed reports that a device found under the vehicle of a senior officer at Shandon Park Golf Club in Belfast was a redesign of a Provisional IRA prototype.
“There are lots of reasons why it didn’t go off, but flat terrain is not one of them,” he said.
“This is an act of maximum desperation to try and justify themselves by boasting of their capability, but in reality they haven’t proved to be that capable.
“To say this device is a redesign is just waffle.”
In a statement issued to the Irish News using a recognised code word and signed T. O’Neill, the ‘IRA’ said it planted the under-car bomb.
“The IRA claims responsibility for the recent under car booby trap,” it read.
The newspaper also reported that it believes the device, which police have described as “sophisticated”, contained a motion-activated mercury tilt switch.
Such a device would require sudden movement in order to detonate.
“We are confident the device would have exploded if it was not for the level terrain it had travelled on,” the sinister statement added.
“We were unlucky this time but we only have to be lucky once.”
However, Mr McQuillan said terrain has little to do with how the tilt mechanism functions, as he accused the dissident terror gang of lying.
“It’s the motion of the vehicle which causes the switch to activate, so this suggestion doesn’t ring true,” he explained.
“The mercury in the glass capsule runs to one end and sets the bomb off — the motion can be caused by the car being on a hill, the brakes being applied or the accelerator.
“You’d have to drive extremely carefully for it to fail to explode.”
Mr McQuillan also dismissed reports that 1.5lbs of TNT used to make the device was sourced from US and Australian commercial organisations as “nothing new”.
“They have commercial contacts as a result of their drug dealing channels,” he added.
The security expert said the New IRA’s bravado is an attempt to save its own reputation following its first attack since the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.
The 29-year-old was shot dead by the group during rioting in Londonderry in April.
“People are fed up with them after Lyra and they know it,” Mr McQuillan said.
“Most people want nothing to do with them after the reckless killing of a young woman.”
However, Mr McQuillan conceded that the terror group should not be underestimated, despite being riddled with informants and under constant watch by the security services.
“These are experienced older people who are sending out very inexperienced younger people to do their dirty work,” he added.
“It’s this lack of experience that makes them very dangerous.
“But they’ve lost their leader Seamus McGrane and many more have been arrested.”
The Real IRA leader — whose group was a founding faction of the New IRA — was jailed in 2017 for planning an explosion during a visit of Prince Charles to Ireland in 2015.
He died behind bars last month.
Another security source, who described those behind the attack as “absolutely bloodthirsty”, believes that the device must have been old.
“That’s why it didn’t go off,” they said.
“Those behind it are very lucky they didn’t blow themselves up, but they will keep going until they are successful and beyond that.”