By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Elements of dissident republican groups opposed to the peace process are poised to carry out an attack in the border area in the immediate future, the chief constable of the RUC warned this week.
Sir Ronnie Flanagan said there was a growing threat from a coalition of the splinter groups the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA and members of the Irish National Liberation Army.
He said there was a definite structure to the organization that is describing itself as Oglaigh na hEireann.
"There has been an increase in activity. There has been a growing
structure to this organization and it is something that is currently giving us great cause for concern," Flanagan said.
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"We believe they are interested in carrying out an attack somewhere along the border area in the immediate future. We are working to prevent that, but it is a very real threat."
Security has been tightened in border areas and surveillance has been intensified as the militant breakaway group, the Real IRA, has been recruiting and reorganizing in recent months.
It called a cease-fire after there was widespread outrage after it planted a car bomb in Omagh in August 1998 that killed 29 people and injured more than 200.
It was formed by rejectionist hawks within the Provisional IRA, who objected to the peace process. They regarded it as a betrayal of the traditional republican policy of achieving unity and ending British rule in the North.
The Continuity IRA is the only breakaway group opposed to the peace process that has never called a cease-fire, this despite appeals from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. It is also opposed to the Good Friday agreement.
It is regarded as the military wing of Republican Sinn Fein, though that party denies any connection with it.
RSF was formed following a split at an Ard Fheis in 1986 when Provisional Sinn Fein voted to end a policy of abstentionism in the Dail.
The Continuity IRA was linked to a number of car bomb attacks in Northern Ireland towns last year.
The INLA called a "complete cease-fire" in August 1998, ending a 23-year campaign of violence. It was formed by disaffected members of the Provisional IRA who were unhappy about a 1975 cease-fire.
A maverick group that suffered from bloody internecine feuds, the INLA operated with other republican groups during its campaign — three of the 10 hunger strikers who died in 1981 were in the INLA.
It first became known internationally in 1979 when it planted the bomb that killed Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman Airey Neave at the British House of Commons.
Oglaigh na hEireann — literally meaning in Irish the Irish Volunteers, but now generally accepted as Soldiers of Ireland — is an evocative and much-claimed title in republican tradition.
It is the official name of the Defense Forces since 1923 but the
Provisional IRA and the Real IRA also use it in an effort claim historical legitimacy.