Dissident republican sting reassures public: Security forces deserve credit for work in helping to secure convictions
The security forces deserve great credit for their work in helping to secure the convictions of a group of dissident republicans who set up a terrorist training camp outside Omagh.
They included Sharon Rafferty, a mother of three children, who was jailed for eight years for her dissident activities. Three other republicans were also sentenced.
Rafferty and her fellow activists were secretly recorded as they set up a makeshift training camp in Formil Wood outside Omagh. The purpose was to try out a new rifle and their ability to use it.
Clearly they were up to no good, and the judge in the court case accepted that this training exercise by the dissidents was to prepare themselves for a terror attack. The security forces also recorded conversations between Sharon Rafferty and accomplice Sean Kelly who talked about terrorist-related issues, including the targeting of Catholic police officers.
All of this evidence was the result of extensive and skilled surveillance by the security forces, and it gives a rare insight into the cloak and dagger world of those who are out to flaunt the law, and the forces of law and order who are carrying out their duties to protect members of the public.
The evidence was so comprehensive that the judge said it was the first time he had come across a case with detailed and prolonged recordings of conversations which gave an insight into the thoughts of two of the gang involved. One of the most disturbing elements of such complex cases is the realisation that these kinds of things are taking place in otherwise quiet countryside. People will find it hard to believe that, in this day and age, dissidents are still prepared to set up a training camp in a wood near the town of Omagh which has experienced some of the worst horrors of the entire Troubles.
Perhaps the public is better not knowing too much about what goes on virtually behind their backs, which could cause widespread uncertainty, and the very success of surveillance work depends itself on the utmost secrecy when searching out those people whose lawless actions are so often secluded in dark places.
However, it is reassuring to know that the security forces are constantly monitoring and dealing with such people, and they should have all our thanks and support for doing so.