IRA groups as strong as Provisionals - Ahern
IRA groups as strong as Provisionals - Ahern

The 26-County Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has said the Real IRA and Continuity IRA have successfully pooled their resources and the threat posed by their co-operation is now as serious as that from the Provisional IRA during the height of the conflict.

He said the 250lb car bomb that exploded outside Newry courthouse last Monday night reflected a new level of sophistication among dissident republicans.

“There seems to be an effort in recent months to bring them closer together,” Mr Ahern said yesterday of the Real IRA and Continuity IRA.

“There seems to be cross-fertilisation; it may be more to do with acquaintances or family membership than ideology. But nonetheless it is a more worrying trend because clearly their capability is growing.”

While the two main groups were co-operating it also appeared a wider dissident coalition was emerging. This included a number of small splinter groups and a handful of republicans who had up until recently been committed to the political process.

Mr Ahern said the Real IRA and Continuity IRA both have “significant pockets” of membership in the 26 Counties.

He said the state authorities faced a “conundrum” in “responding firmly to the growing threat” in a way that would not “alienate” some sections of the nationalist community in the North.

“What they are really at is to try and bring back troops on to the streets of Northern Ireland and to destabilise the efforts of political parties in the North to bring final peace,” he said.

However, Sinn Fein’s Mr McGuinness said the breakaway groups were “no army, just a gang of people with no lives who represented nobody”.

He condemning the killing last week of ‘Real IRA’ member Ciaran Doherty, without referring the family’s allegations of MI5 involvement.

Speaking in the Stormont Assembly today, he condemned the killing on Wednesday of ‘Real IRA’ member Ciaran Doherty, without referring to the family’s allegations of MI5 involvement.

Referring to dissident republicans, the deputy Six-County First Minister attacked what he said was “a gang of people who are opposed to peace, who are opposed to justice and who are opposed to political progress and.. a gang of people who believe that it’s a legitimate political objective to destroy all of the good work that many of us in this house have been engaged in with the assistance of others over the course of the last 15 years.

“So we’ve had enough of victims and our message is very, very clear to all of those groups who are out there -- and at this point of time as we speak they are mostly on the so-called republican side -- and that is to give us a break, to go away and get a life for themselves, get off people’s back and recognise that you’re going absolutely nowhere.”

He added: “So we’re saying to them, give us a break, we want no more victims, we want you to go away, stop your activities, give us the opportunity to move forward and if you’ve got the intelligence and ability you can, yes, continue to oppose politically what we are doing, but the use of violence has had its day in the north and on the island of Ireland.

“We’re moving forward, we’re not going to be diverted and each act they carry out, instead of us becoming weaker, we will get stronger, stronger than ever before. No matter what they do we will continue to move forward and move forward together.”

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