A large bomb was partially detonated by the Real IRA at the empty home of an industrialist and unionist peer in another attack by the breakaway armed republican group.
The 70 lb bomb attack on the County Louth estate of Ulster Unionist peer Lord Ballyedmond of Mourne is the latest incident in a new wave of attacks by republican hardliners. The dissidents are reported to be growing in force and number, particularly in border areas.
The mansion being built by Lord Ballyedmond presented a convenient but symbolic target for dissidents in the border area, who evaded construction workers and security measures to plant the device.
Unionists said Lord Ballyedmond’s political contacts in the 26 Counties had been “very helpful” to the party in the run-up to the Good Friday Agreement.
The incident followed the Real IRA’s claim of responsibility last week for fires in the commercial centre of Newry, County Down, and explosions on the nearby Belfast-Dublin railway line.
Meanwhile, there have been unconfirmed reports of defections by IRA Volunteers in the South Derry area.
Efforts by Sinn Féin to prepare grassroots republicans for a move to support the PSNI police -- potentially the most difficult and ground-breaking concession of all -- is already beginning to polarise republican opinion, although a move on the issue is unlikely in the short term.
Tensions between republican hardliners and Sinn Féin were not eased last weekend when a plan to read out a statement by republican prisoners at Maghaberry prison to the party’s commemorative hunger strike rally at Casement Park was reportedly nixed at the last minute.
The prisoners are currently engaged in a protest at Maghaberry prison for recognition of their political status, strongly echoing the aims of the blanket protest and hunger strikes of the eighties.
This week the families of Patsy O’Hara and Michael Devine, Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) hunger strikers, also protested about Sinn Féin’s handling of hunger strike commemorations.