The Stormont Assembly this week debated their concerns over continued armed actions by republicans after a 100lb bomb was discovered hidden in a hedgerow in south Armagh.
Prominent anti-republican lobbyist Willie Frazer claimed to have discovered the large beer-keg device by himself in the village of Jonesborough.
“It is clear that senior members of Sinn Féin/IRA knew of this bomb before I found it,” he declared.
“While I was at the scene a number of individuals in a car, who I know to be republicans, stopped to hurl abuse at me.
“Unlike previous attempts to intimidate me, they did not stop beside me, but pulled in some 200 or 300 yards away and shouted back.
“They clearly knew of the existence of the bomb. If I could see this device as I drove past, I cannot believe local republicans did not also see it.”
Local residents were highly sceptical of Mr Frazer’s claims. Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy condemned those responsible for hiding the device, saying they had no support from the community.
“It is disgraceful and I think the people involved in this, and I presume that this is some dissident republican group, have no support in that community and they certainly have no strategy to achieve any political objectives,” he said.
Local SF councillor Packie McDonald said that people were shocked at the PSNI response to its discovery.
“By chance I was driving through the village when I saw a film crew taking pictures of this device... To leave a suspect device for such a long time without putting in place any kind of warning for local residents is unacceptable.”
At the Assembly, a motion was proposed by Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott, who said there was “a distinct possibility that the Troubles we worked so hard to get away from are returning again.”
Mr Elliott also noted recent bomb attacks in his own Fermanagh constituency, at Rosslea and Lisnaskea, involving the use of high-powered Semtex explosive.
DUP Assembly member David Simpson also claimed new republican group eirigi was trying to join other republican organisations to attack the peace process.
“This is with a view to providing political opposition to Sinn Féin and further accelerate the ongoing fragmentation of the mainstream organisations,” he declared.
eirigi dismissed any suggestion it was responsible for the Executive crisis.
Chairman Brian Leeson said: “Since its formation, eirigi has consistently pointed out that Britain’s latest political experiment at Stormont was destined for failure.
“The blame lies at the feet of those -- including the DUP -- who were willing participants in trying to make a success story out of a failed political entity -- the six-county state.”
DUP North Antrim Assembly member Mervyn Storey told the Assembly the growth of traditionalist republican organisations stemmed largely from the fact that the Sinn Féin leadership spun their supporters a “right old yarn” over devolution of policing and justice.
“The current artificially created Sinn Féin Executive crisis is more about Sinn Féin covering their backs rather than anything substantial,” he added.
But Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd expressed his party’s own suspicions over the current upsurge of activity. He said: “Some of the people within these organisations -- the so-called dissident organisations -- are state agents and have been state agents for many years.
“Why have they been allowed to continue their activity? Is there someone within the intelligence services who is as opposed to the peace process as these dissident republicans are?”
* British Army helicopters have reappeared in parts of county Fermangh in an apparent response to the increased republican activity in the area.
Low-flying helicopters buzzed homes in several areas last week and were seen circling a Gaelic football club in Lisnaskea for some time. The PSNI denied the activity was taking place, but and later claimed the RAF was engaged in routine training exercises.
* A 12-year-old Catholic boy was beaten up by a mob of a dozen loyalists in Derry city centre on Saturday. Caolan McFarland (12) was set upon close to Derry’s mainly Protestant Fountain estate when he was punched about the head and neck. A 14-year-old Catholic boy was also assaulted by a gang of youths at Irish Street in Derry’s Waterside in a separate incident.