Massive bomb defused amid Belfast tension
Massive bomb defused amid Belfast tension

A bomb weighing 300lb intended for use against a British military base in County Down was abandoned by republican militants last week.

The device, made using homemade explosives, was discovered by the PSNI last Tuesday on a road south of Castlewellan. The find was made shortly after a telephone warning was received, but details of the incident only began to emerge last weekend.

In the warning, a caller said the bomb was originally intended for use in an attack on the nearby British Army base at Ballykinlar. It was disarmed on Friday after controlled explosions were carried out on what the PSNI police termed “suspect items”.

A smaller, home-made device, described by the PSNI as “extremely crude”, was also defused after being uncovered in the Skegoneil area of north Belfast.

A spokesman for Oglaigh na hEireann yesterday [Thursday] claimed responsibility for the County Down bomb as well as a 250lb landmine found on the outskirts of Jonesborough, County Armagh, in September.

In its statement the group said: “ONH take this opportunity to distance ourselves from people purporting to be republican actively engaged in the drug trade either directly or otherwise.

“We also ask the republican community to distance themselves from black propaganda emanating from Sinn Féin and the Provisional movement.”

The group known as Oglaigh na hEireann is believed to be linked to, or a faction of, the ‘Real IRA’.

The statement refers to a campaign by senior west-Belfast based Provisional republicans this week against “criminality” by Oglaigh na hEireann and the smaller republican armed groups, which Sinn Féin has labelled “micro-groupings”.

In an escalating power-struggle between “mainstream” and “dissident” republicans, the smaller groups were accused in a press briefing of “criminal activities”, of “discrediting republicanism” and of “creating a climate of fear and intimidation within communities”.

Continuity IRA prisoners at Maghaberry jail meanwhile have attacked what they described as a “criminalisation campaign”.

The exchanges come as punishment attacks by republican groups have risen to their highest level in five years, particularly in Belfast, where ‘Oglaigh na hEireann’ is said to exist as a distinct organisation alongside the ‘Real IRA’ and Continuity IRA.

The Continuity IRA last week issued a list of 10 west Belfast men it said were under threat, accusing them of involvement in the drugs trade.

The CFAD (Concerned Families Against Drugs) group in north Belfast, which was raided by the PSNI last week after being linked to hardline republicans, held a white-line protest in Ardoyne on Saturday against what it claimed was harassment.


In a media briefing earlier this week, a senior Provisional republican source said that most people in the community see these groups as indistinguishable but that each of the groups was distinct “or the latest evolution from one to another”.

“Over recent years, the INLA has descended into criminality, engaging in robberies and extortion, targeting local business people as well as taking a share in the profits of drug dealers.

“The CIRA are prolific gangsters involved in similar criminal activity.

“The latest manifestation originating from the RIRA, known as Oglaigh na hEireann, has been carrying out personally-based vendettas dressed up as so-called punishment shootings. Some of those targeted have been individuals who have fallen out with the group.

“In one case, the gang was asked to carry out a shooting in Belfast as a personal favour for a County Armagh-based spokesperson for a ‘republican’ pressure group involved in a domestic dispute.”

It was also claimed that the CIRA and INLA had a “going rate” of ten thousand pounds for drug dealers to be allowed to continue dealing.


Earlier in the week, a prisoner was removed from the republican wing at Maghaberry after fellow prisoners complained that he was a “criminal” and not eligible to be held there.

Sean ‘Hovis’ Hughes, from north Belfast, had been on the wing of the North’s highest security prison since being held in connection with a robbery in February 2007.

The Continuity IRA, who represent the largest number of prisoners in the jail, issued a statement that anyone who “engaged in criminal acts for financial gain” was not welcome on the wing.

In a statement made on behalf of “Republican Prisoners of War incarcerated in Maghaberry prison camp”, it was claimed that a strategy of criminalisation was again underway inside the jail, despite the re-introduction of segregation some five years ago.

“At present the age-old policy of criminalisation is in full swing at the behest of the N.I.O. [Northern Ireland Office] and their Provo (Sinn Féin) puppets, aided by former members of the Provisional Movement who are now actively involved in criminal acts such as so-called “tiger kidnappings” for personal profiteering.

“Those who portray themselves as Republicans and yet freely engage in criminal acts such as “tiger kidnappings” solely for financial gain are not welcome on our wing and their presence will not be tolerated.”


Meanwhile, it has also emerged that a CIRA threat to community workers at the at the Ashton and Wolfhill community centres in north Belfast for what they said was “collaboration” with the PSNI has been withdrawn. The move, which followed a public meeting was held demanding an end to the threat, was welcomed by centre spokeswoman Maria Morgan.

“This threat had put huge pressure on community workers and we are just glad that we can get back to concentrating on providing a much-needed service to the community,” she said.

“People can come in and out of the centre freely now without any sense of fear. We are just glad it’s all over.”


In other news, the extradition of former Workers’ Party president Sean Garland is again being sought by the US government over his alleged involvement in a plan to forge dollars over twenty years ago.

The 74-year-old, who is suffering from cancer and diabetes, is being held at Cloverhill Prison to appear again before the High Court next Wednesday.

Mr Garland was elected president of the Workers’ Party in 2006. He retired from the presidency in May last year, but remains a member of the party’s central executive committee and is its national treasurer.

The Workers’ Party described Mr Garland’s arrest as “politically motivated”, while leading reactionary Eoghan Harris said he deplored “the singling-out of an old, sick republican, who led the Official IRA to ceasefire in 1972”.

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