01 February 2006

New splinter republican groups identified


01/02/2006 - 11:55:00

Two new hardline republican groups are operating within the North, the latest report from ceasefire watchdog the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) claimed today.

The four-member IMC identified the splinter groups as Oglaigh na hEireann and Saoirse na hEireann.

The IMC said Oglaigh na hEireann, a breakaway faction from the Continuity IRA, was responsible for one assault and a robbery at a post office in the period between September 1 and November 30 last year. It also tried to recruit members of the Real IRA.

Saoirse na hEireann was described as a group of disaffected, mostly young, republicans, the majority of whom are based in Belfast. The organisation also claimed responsibility for two hoax bombs in September.

The commissioners said: “It remains to be seen how and to what extent these new groupings develop.

“Previous experience with splinter dissident groupings indicates that they might not necessarily be long-lasting. We will include any further information in future reports.”

The IMC said it was difficult to attribute some dissident republican activity during the period to specific groups.

The incidents included the planting of a viable bomb at Belfast City Hall at the end of November and two hoaxes at the home of a senior member of the SDLP.

The commission also noted two hoax bomb alerts in October and one the following month.

The report speculated that hardline republicans were using the bomb scares to study how the security forces reacted in such circumstances and help those responsible plan future attacks.

The IMC said the Continuity IRA remained a threat and was training members, continuing efforts to recruit new members, developing its equipment and seeking to acquire munitions.

The organisation was responsible for a hoax device under a Royal Irish Regiment officer’s car and planned a campaign of viable and hoax bombs against private, commercial and military targets.

“We think it probable that the organisation was responsible for planting four explosive devices in the period under review, one against an Orange Hall and for hoaxes at commercial premises and the Down Royal racecourse,” the report said.

“It instructed some members of Oglaigh na hEireann, the new grouping which has splintered from CIRA, to leave Northern Ireland. We conclude that CIRA remains a threat; that it will continue to mount real and hoax attacks; and that it will continue to plan violence and to seek to enhance its capacity.”

The report said the organisation behind the 1998 Omagh bomb, the Real IRA (RIRA), continued to have two factions within it.

Nevertheless, during the period examined in the report, RIRA tried to develop its equipment and intelligence-gathering capabilities, particularly against the security forces, and also recruit members.

RIRA was accused of engaging in a campaign of intimidation and violence against those it regarded as anti-social elements such as drug dealers.

The organisation carried out more assaults than any other hardline republican group and remained involved in organised crime, including contraband cigarettes.

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) maintained a low profile during the period but deployed weapons for defensive purposes during the loyalist riots which followed the Orange Order’s Whiterock parade in west Belfast in September.

The INLA tried to recruit, and was involved in at least one unreported assault and in an arson attack on the home of a District Policing Partnership member in Strabane, Co Tyrone, as well as a number of hijackings.

“We believe that the INLA remains involved in organised crime, including drugs and smuggling,” the IMC said.

“During this period, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, in the course of investigations into money laundering, recovered an INLA weapon, documents and computer equipment.

“We conclude as before that the threat of the organisation’s more active involvement remains, although its present capacity for a sustained campaign is not high.”

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