Garda fears dissidents are uniting behind the New IRA
Security forces in the south fear dissident republican terrorists are rallying behind the New IRA - the murder gang which left a bomb under a police officer's car in east Belfast recently and gunned down journalist Lyra McKee in April.
The Sunday Times Irish edition reported yesterday that members of a group styling itself Oglaigh na hEireann (OnH) have been defecting to the New IRA.
The OnH - made up of former members of the Provisional IRA - was responsible for dozens of punishment shootings and attacks on security forces.
It was also responsible for a spate of terrorist attacks on police and security forces in Northern Ireland, including the maiming of Catholic PSNI officer Peadar Heffron, who lost a leg in 2010 after an OnH bomb planted under his car exploded.
The OnH declared a ceasefire in 2018, saying it had decided to end its campaign of violence because "the environment is not right for armed conflict".
Not all of its members were happy at the ceasefire move - and it is these hardened terrorists that security forces north and south worry are gravitating towards the New IRA.
At the time of its ceasefire, OnH was thought to have approximately 50 members, and was among the most active dissident groups opposed to the peace process.
It is believed the OnH gang still has an arsenal of lethal weapons and explosives under its control.
The terror gang's membership included a number of former senior figures from the Provisional IRA from Belfast, Londonderry, south Armagh and north Louth.
There is speculation that dissident republicans are using the Brexit process as a propaganda tool in a bid to recruit new followers.
The Sunday Times also reports that senior terrorists recently met in a 'terror summit' aimed at thrashing out their future strategy, and claims that the New IRA has already been carrying out reconnaissance in Great Britain, in order to scope out targets for potential future terror attacks.
The newspaper quotes a Garda security source as saying of the New IRA: "It is focused on murdering police officers or soldiers in Northern Ireland, and building up strength.
"If they have taken possession of weapons that were previously under the control of OnH, these will inevitably be used to carry out attacks."
The source added: "They (the New IRA) already have possession of commercial explosives and guns which were not decommissioned by the New IRA during the peace process."