New IRA and republican factions plotting attacks in north to coincide with 1916 centenary
DISSIDENT republicans are continuing to plot attacks to coincide with the centenary of 1916 in the aftermath of the murder of a prison officer who died in Belfast this week from injuries suffered in a car bomb attack earlier this month.
Security services believe there are hundreds of dissident republicans operating on the island and fear that they are growing in strength.
The Sunday World has investigated the various different factions operating in the south who are involved in plotting terror attacks in the north.
The likely targets are police, army and prison officers based in the north.
The main groups involved are the New IRA, Oglaigh na hEireann and various different factions of the Continuity IRA.
Alan Ryan, the RIRA leader who was shot down in 2012
The New IRA is currently considered the biggest threat among the vast alphabet soup that makes up the different dissident republican factions currently in operation.
The group, which claimed responsibility for the recent car bomb attack, is an amalgamation of the Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs and other republicans who came together to form one group in 2012.
The likes of Alan Ryan, who engaged in gang warfare with criminal gangs in Dublin, gained much attention in the south in recent years.
However, he ran just one faction of the organisation before his death at the hands of a north Dublin crime gang in 2012, and there were several other linked but separate factions operating in the capital at the same time.
Ryan's faction was effectively stood down following his death but some of his former associates remain involved.
One of Ryan's close pals, Dean Evans, is currently awaiting trial for the murder of former RIRA member Peter Butterly in an operation gardai believe was ordered by the new leadership of the New IRA in Dublin.
One layer of the new leadership in Dublin which came to prominence following Ryan's death were based around the Tallaght area of south Dublin, focusing on a 41-year-old man based in that suburb.
However, that faction also had links to Finglas, Ballymun, Bettystown and various other parts of Dublin. They have been arrested several times by gardai investigating dissident activities.
Another Dublin man directly involved in carrying out operations in the north is a 30-year-old from Crumlin suspected of planting a bomb under a PSNI officer's car in Derry last year.
Another major figure based in the south who is under close surveillance by gardai in the run-up to the Easter celebrations is from Finglas in north Dublin.
Others are more concentrated on fundraising, including a seemingly legitimate Kildare businessman previously caught up in a Real IRA-led fraud scam more than a decade ago.
Another man accused of involvement with the New IRA in the south is Robert Day, who is living in Cabra in north Dublin.
Day, who is currently awaiting trial on IRA membership charges, was recently convicted after being caught with €20,000 worth of counterfeit money which gardai said was to be used to "finance the activities of the IRA."
Day has been monitored by gardai on a number of occasions in recent years meeting up with leading figures in the New IRA in Dublin.
He was previously arrested over the murder of innocent Joseph Rafferty, who was shot dead in Dublin after confronting an IRA-linked thug who had attacked his sisters. Day was later released without charge.
While the New IRA has expertise provided by former Provos, they are not believed to have access to large amounts of explosives like the Provos did.
"They are capable of carrying out bomb attacks but they are more likely to be small car bombs or pipe bombs. They only have access to a relatively small amount of semtex. The bomb placed on the van in Belfast only contained a small amount of semtex," said a source
Gardai foiled a major New IRA bomb plot after arresting two men in Louth two years ago. The men were a few hundred metres from the border when gardai stopped them with an adapted 50litre beer keg, 50kg of ammonium nitrate homemade explosives, an improvised steel booster tube and an improvised time and power unit at Kilcurry Church, Co Louth on May 25, 2014.
Garret Mulley from Aisling Park, Dundalk and David Gallagher from Marley Court, Drogheda, are both serving sentences for that bomb plot.
Another group known as Oglaigh na hEireann was previously considered a major threat and had been linked to a number of bombings and shootings in the north in recent years.
The group is a small organisation but is also understood to work with the New IRA on certain operations. However, the group suffered a major blow after suspected leading members were arrested and charged with offences including directing terrorism last year.
Among them was Seamus McGrane from Domiskin, Co Louth, who was charged with terror offences after being arrested a week before Prince Charles' visit to Ireland.
McGrane was previously involved in a Real IRA weapons training camp in Meath where Alan Ryan was arrested while still a teenager. He is suspected of leaving the Real IRA to form OnH.
However, sources say the different groups are willing to work with each other on certain operations.
There are currently at least three groups claiming to be the Continuity IRA. One is loyal to Republican Sinn Fein, led by Des Dalton.
Another CIRA is loyal to Continuity Sinn Fein, led by Limerick man Joe 'Tiny' Lynch and former Provo bombmaker Patrick 'Mooch' Blair from South Armagh. Blair was previously named in the House of Commons as helping "to construct the Omagh bomb" which was carried out the Real IRA but he has always denied involvement.
Lynch and Blair were among a dozen dissidents arrested in a security operation in Newry two years ago. MI5 had secretly recorded members of the CIRA faction as they plotted to target judges and police officers in the north and discussed bomb plots, weapons training and fundraising activities.
"There is a lot of fluidity between the republican groups and so many factions and splinter groups that it is almost impossible to know where every allegiance lies at one point in time," said a source. "But they will all claim to be the real deal."
The INLA, however, is now regarded as purely a criminal organisation by security services. The group is heavily involved in protection rackets against business owners and drug dealers and is heavily involved in pub door security.
One is led by Dessie O'Hare and another man who cannot be named as he is currently before the courts. The fact that the man before the courts is not being tried in the Special Criminal Court is evidence that the gardai treat the group as a criminal gang rather than dissident terrorists.