Belfast Telegraph

Dissidents alter rules in battle with Irish police

By Tom Brady

Dissident republican terrorists have responded to a series of significant garda successes against them by changing the "rules of engagement".

Republican groups have traditionally avoided armed confrontation with the gardai -- apart from a handful of isolated incidents such as the Provisional IRA murder of Det Garda Jerry McCabe in an attempted post office robbery in Adare, Co Limerick, in June 1996.

But senior gardai are concerned that the new generation of terrorists is no longer worried about the consequences of opening fire on officers if they are cornered.

As a result of this threat, gardai deployed in the front line of the war against the dissidents are being warned to be on full alert when disrupting their criminal activities.

Proof of the deadly tactics being adopted by the renegades was provided last July when a member of the Oglaigh na hEireann group -- the most dangerous of the dissident gangs -- fired a shot at gardai as they were arresting a number of suspects in Omeath, Co Louth.

This was the first time a shot had been fired by a republican group at gardai in several years.

Highly trained and armed members of the Emergency Response Unit now play a leading role in all anti-terrorist exercises along the Border and, in particular, Operation Designer, which has been in existence since early last year and has thwarted several plans by the dissidents to launch attacks on security targets in Northern Ireland.

In the Republic the increased garda activity is highlighted by the number of successes achieved since the start of the year, culminating in over 70 arrests here and 28 suspects being charged with terror-related offences before the Special Criminal Court.

But the dissidents in Northern Ireland have improved their engineering capabilities and learned from previous mistakes with the result that more explosive devices are being detonated.

So far this year, the dissidents have been responsible for 39 attacks, compared with a total of 22 for all of 2009.

Recent seizures by gardai in Wexford and Dunleer, Co Louth, show that the dissidents here are continuing to build up their logistical expertise in explosive material and weaponry.

There is a total of 59 subversive prisoners in custody at present, including two INLA men held in Castlerea. The other 57 are all behind bars in the maximum security jail at Portlaoise and include 14 members of the two Real IRA factions, 13 INLA inmates and six from the Continuity IRA.

Belfast Telegraph

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