The Continuity IRA has claimed responsibility for shooting dead a member of the PSNI in Craigavon, County Armagh, last night.
In a coded message, the group said the shooting in Craigavon was carried out by its north Armagh battalion. It said: “As long as there is British involvement in Ireland, these attacks will continue.”
The Continuity Army Council broke away from the Provisional IRA in 1986, but it was not until a decade later that the Continuity IRA (CIRA) became active under its control. Last night’s attack was the organisation’s first fatal attack on members of the British Crown Forces.
The victim was named as 48-year-old Stephen Paul Carroll from the Banbridge area who joined the RUC more than 20 years ago. The PSNI described the attack as a carefully planned ambush and have mounted a major security operation in the north Armagh area.
The shooting happened after a PSNI unit responded to a call-out to the nationalist Lismore Manor estate of Craigavon.
There is a sense of mounting crisis in the North following the latest killing, the third in the past 72 hours by republican armed groups. On Saturday night, two British soldiers were killed by members of the ‘Real IRA’/Oglaigh na hEireann.
There has been considerable surprise that the breakaway groups, once thought to have been undermined by high levels of infiltration and electronic surveillance, have retained the capacity to mount such attacks.
There is now concern within the political establishment that a co-ordinated campaign may be being attempted by the previously disparate IRA factions, and unspoken fears that a new phase of the conflict may be underway.
In a wave of shocked reaction, the PSNI Chief High Orde held a joint press conference with the First and Deputy First Ministers, the DUP’s Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, at the Stormont Assembly today.
The First and Deputy First Ministers were again forced to postpone a visit to the US following the latest attack.
Hugh Orde said the armed groups were “criminal psychopaths” who would not succeed.
Mr Robinson said: “This is a battle of wills between the political class and the evil gunmen - the political class will win.”
Mr McGuinness said the republican actions would be in vain: “These people are traitors to the island of Ireland, they have betrayed the political desires, hopes and aspirations of all of the people who live on this island.”