By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Despite denials by the Continuity IRA that it has formed an alliance with the so-called Real IRA and dissident INLA members, there is growing concern in the RUC and the gardai that a renewed military campaign is being planned by extreme republicans opposed to the peace process.
The Continuity IRA, which has been linked to Republican Sinn Fein, is the only subversive group not to have declared a cease-fire and there is concern that its name may be used as an "umbrella" for dissidents.
In a statement to the Irish Times using a recognized code word, the Continuity IRA said "there is no alliance with other bodies, no formal discussions have taken place and no joint strategy exists."
However, RUC chief constable Ronnie Flanagan warned that the Continuity IRA was planning to extend its campaign and carry out bomb attacks.
"They would intend to carry out acts of a variety of natures. There is a risk of them attempting to carry out a bomb attack," he told the BBC.
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"It is based around the border but they want to extend their activity to other parts of the Province. It is a threat we are very much alive to. It is a threat we are currently working very hard to thwart."
Strategies for dealing with the dissident paramilitaries were also central to discussions between Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne and London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon when they met to discuss cooperation on a range of issues at Garda headquarters in Dublin last week.
Searches by gardai close to the border in County Monaghan uncovered three heavy machine guns hidden in lengths of plastic sewer pipe, which had been concealed in a dry stone wall at Blackstaff near Carrickmacross.
The find came as a result of ongoing searches and intelligence gathering following the Omagh bombing atrocity last August when the Real IRA killed 29 people.
Forensic and ballistics experts are examining the guns, two of which are large weapons of the type that have been used in the past to try to shoot down British military helicopters in Northern Ireland. They are usually fired by two man teams from lorries.
Gardai would not speculate on who might have had control of the guns, but they are thought to have been part of consignments of arms and explosives smuggled into the country from Libya by the Provisional IRA in 1985-87.
Supt. Tom Flannery of Carrickmacross described them as "top-of-the-range" weapons which are very powerful and were in good condition.
Two of the guns have the capability of firing 450-600 rounds per minute and were accurate up to a mile.
The find was made close to an area where Gardai found AK47 assault rifles, an FN sniper’s rifle and seven handguns in searches last September and October.