Security brief

Published Friday, 08 April 2011
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One murder wasn't enough ... As preparations were being made to lay Constable Ronan Kerr to rest, police received new intelligence.

Intelligence indicating it wasn't ending with the loss of his young life; the terrorists were still targeting, plotting to kill.

The news only revealed by senior police sources on Friday give a shocking but realistic insight into the minds of those bent on murder.

These terrorists simply don't give a jot about words of condemnation or of a mother's plea for the violence to stop.

Instead, they are gearing up for their next attack.

No doubt a blow to that was the discovery of that bomb factory in Co Tyrone.

But this won't stop them.

Almost every day there is a report telling us about the serious threat these dissidents pose, but what is the reality?

Senior sources have given a glimpse into what's really going on.

Every two weeks intelligence comes in indicating an officer has been identified as a target.

My source told me that "almost always leads to conspiracy to murder".

We know the dissident threat has grown in the last few years, with former IRA members with bomb-making expertise joining the ranks.

Much of their weaponry comes from the former Yugoslavia.

Guns, normally passed around criminal gangs, are smuggled into Northern Ireland in "dribs and drabs."

Sources now say the three dissident groups - the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, and ONH - are working together more than ever.

But they are still not at that point where there is one command structure.

It's a very fluid situation, not just about groups now, but groups of individuals moving between the organisations.

Police estimate there are up to 30 of these gangs in Northern Ireland...

So what's being done about them? Well, police have an extra £245m to tackle the dissident threat.

A new unit has been set up to re-investigate unsolved murders spanning the last three decades.

The reasoning behind this is simple.

If they can't get the dissidents on the deeds they are carrying out now.

Forensics advances could bring them to justice on the crimes they carried out in the past.

One they will look at is the Real IRA murder of a civilian building contractor at an army base on the Limavady Road in Derry nine years ago.

David Caldwell was killed when he picked up a booby-trap bomb planted in a lunch-box.

It's not just terrorist activity police will be focusing on.

"There's more than one way to skin a cat,'' said a senior source.

Detectives will be trawling over every aspect of these terrorists' lives - their family backgrounds - their finances.

"We hope to engender a state of paranoia among the dissidents. Make their lives as uncomfortable as possible."

With an election just around the corner patrols will be stepped up and there will be more checkpoints.

The Queen may be visiting the Republic, but police in Northern Ireland will be on their guard in case the dissidents launch a headline grabbing attack in the north.

Police tell me they are "prepared'' and can call on their counterparts in England to help if the situation deteriorates. But the world of counter-terrorism is a murky one. No matter how prepared you are, there are always surprises. The murder of Constable Kerr proved that.

© UTV News
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Sharon O'Neill
Sharon O'Neill

Sharon is a graduate of the University of central Lancashire in Preston. She graduated with a 2:1 degree in journalism. She was a mature student - (though she didn't act it at times!)

After studying she freelanced for both the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph, then she was a sub-editor at the Daily Mirror despite some terrible spelling. Then she got a job as a reporter with the Irish News and two years later became their chief reporter.

She then moved to UTV and went in front of the camera, though she insists she's not a natural. She finds every day can be memorable in its own little way.

In her spare time she loves keeping fit, feeding her coffee addiction and the occasional dance.

Her phrase of choice is 'Let's check out of this cheap hotel'.

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