Republican Network for Unity has warned that British agents may be behind a bewildering series of unclaimed bomb alerts, most of which have been hoaxes or proved groundless.
The incidents have been widely blamed on ‘dissident’ republicans, but have been claimed by no organisation. There have also been suggestions of loyalist involvement.
In the most disruptive incident, a bomb alert snarled traffic on Belfast’s main thoroughfare for hours on Monday -- it later emerged that an empty, abandoned stolen car had causes the alert.
A section of the M1 motorway was closed for an extraordinary nine hours, re-opening only after the morning rush-hour. Despite causing a 23-mile traffic jam, the PNSI later said “nothing untoward” was found.
There were critical closures of the same motorway last Saturday and Monday mornings, while a number of minor roads were briefly closed last week by small, pipe-form devices in all areas of Belfast.
Today [Friday] there was outrage after a bomb threat was phoned into a special needs school in the nationalist town of Lurgan, County Armagh.
School principal Peter Cunningham said the disruption would badly affect the children at his school, who needed routine.
“I think anyone who puts a device, be it a viable device or a hoax, into a special school - I think we have hit a new low in this country,” he said.
The Republican Network for Unity this week warned that elements within the British security services were likely responsible for the hoax bomb alerts, which have followed a period of activity by the ‘new IRA’.
They said they had been timed to “create not only maximum disruption but also frustration in the community.”
Republican Network for Unity spokesman Tommy Doherty said the only people with a vested interest in creating anti-republican frustration within the community “is the British state, PSNI special branch and those who work on their behalf.”
Last week, the Derry Brigade of the ‘new IRA’ said it had successfully launched a mortar rocket at Strand Road PSNI station last Friday. The PSNI refused to confirm that a rocket struck the base.
The armed group, which refers to itself as ‘the IRA’, also said it left a booby trap device outside Derry City Council offices in September last year.
The same organisation also said it had killed a major drug dealer in north Belfast, Kevin Kearney, and issued a dramatic public warning against others.
On Sunday night, a number of masked and armed men entered a bar in north Belfast and read out a statement which named two people as members of Kearney’s gang, and warned them to leave the country within 48 hours.
“Failure to respect this notice will result in a swift response from the IRA”, the statement said.
The organisation was formed last year in a merger of the breakaway ‘Real IRA’, north-west based Republican Action Against Drugs and other armed republicans groups.
Earlier this year, four mortar bombs were found in a van stopped by the PSNI in an incident believed to be linked to the same group in Derry. The PSNI said the bombs had been within minutes of launching through the the roof of the van.