By Jack Holland
Security forces in Northern Ireland are bracing themselves for bomb attacks from former members of the Provisional IRA, reliable sources have claimed. The “dissidents,” who left the Provisionals last fall, have joined forces with other splinter groups, the Irish National Liberation Army and the Continuity IRA, to coordinate operations and pool expertise and equipment.
The last republican attack came just days before the vote for the new assembly on June 25, when a massive car bomb devastated the center of Newtownhamilton, a mainly Protestant village close to the border in County Armagh. It was claimed by the INLA. But security forces believe that the attack was carried out with help from the dissident IRA, whose members include a former leading Provisional IRA bomb maker and a former quartermaster general who had been in charge of arms dumps until a short time before he left.
The dissidents are associated politically with the 32-County Sovereignty Committee, which has been critical of the republican movement’s leadership and its role in the current peace process.
In March, a member of the dissident IRA, which calls itself the real IRA, was shot dead outside Dublin during an attempted security van robbery.
INLA, CIRA and the dissident group carried out a series of separate attacks at the beginning of the year. But between March and June, the security forces in the Irish Republic succeeded in intercepting several car bombs destined for Northern Ireland. In May, it was revealed in the Echo that the three groups had held merger talks in the border town of Dundalk.
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The INLA is the oldest of the three groups, having been formed in December 1974 as a breakaway from the Official IRA. It has been responsible for more than a hundred murders and thousands of injuries. Last December, it shot dead the notorious loyalist killer Billy Wright in the Maze Prison.
The threat of further republican violence comes at a time when members of the splinter groups have been alleging that the Provisional IRA is singling them out for attack. Recently, Kevin “Bap” McQuillan, who took part in the merger talks, was badly beaten and blinded in one eye. McQuillan a long-term member of the INLA and chairman of the group’s political wing, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, says Provisional IRA men set upon him in West Belfast, angered at his criticism of Gerry Adams and other Sinn Fein leaders. In 1987, McQuillan was shot in the face during an INLA feud. He has been the target of several loyalist assassination attempts over the years.
In Derry, Micky Donnelly, a leading member of Republican Sinn Fein, which has been linked to the Continuity IRA, says Provisional IRA men attacked and badly beat him in his home. His son Declan, who studies English at Trinity College, Dublin, told the Belfast Irish News that the masked gang involved shouted “IRA Provisionals” and fired a blank shot from one of two handguns.
Micky Donnelly, who suffered a broken leg, is a former internee. His son believes that the Provisionals are angry at his father for opposing the Assembly elections.
“Is this what we can expect in the future? They are a de facto police force,” he told The Irish News. “It is totally Orwellian.”
Sinn Fein told the Irish News it knew noting about the attacks.