NewsCrime Desk

Serious concerns that 'New IRA' planning bomb attack to mark Easter Rising centenary

A picture from the explosives find on the Naas road on Wednesday night
A picture from the explosives find on the Naas road on Wednesday night

Gardai are becoming increasingly concerned that the 'New IRA' terror group are planning a "spectacular bomb attack" to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising this month.

The fears come after a massive garda operation on Wednesday night which led to the discovery of a large haul of explosives in a car.

Armed officers from the Emergency Response Unit stopped the vehicle just before the Long Mile Road junction at around 7pm.

Two Tallaght men were arrested at the scene after being subdued by armed gardai and forced to lie on the ground.

Senior sources have revealed that gardai and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are "extremely worried" that the 'New IRA' will carry out a bomb attack in either Northern Ireland or mainland UK to mark the Rising anniversary on Sunday, April 24.

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.

"This organisation seems to be getting stronger all the time, but this week's garda operation shows that the Special Detective Unit are on top of these individuals in terms of surveillance," a source said.

"There is little doubt that the seizure of explosives has helped save lives. However, there are still major concerns about this organisation's capabilities ahead of events later this month, and garda operations will continue," a source said last night.

"This terrorist organisation seems to have a point to prove and that is a very dangerous state-of-play," the source added.

The Herald can reveal that one of the arrested men is a 42-year-old man who is one of the country's most prominent dissident republicans.

He has previously been cleared of IRA membership charges, and was heavily involved with the Continuity IRA.

The suspect previously served a lengthy sentence for possession of firearms, and it is suspected that some of his associates were involved in the murder of veteran criminal Eamon Kelly in December 2012.

It is now suspected the arrested man is involved with the 'New IRA', the organisation which claimed responsibility for the van bomb attack that led to the murder of prison officer Adrian Ismay in Belfast last month.

In the aftermath of that incident, the PSNI warned that dissident republicans are intent on killing security force members to mark the upcoming centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said while the terror threat level in the North has been categorised as "severe" for a number of years he was now describing it as "the upper end of severe".

"I believe there are people within dissident republican groupings who want to mark this centenary by killing police officers, prison officers and soldiers," he said.

Earlier this week, the Herald revealed that gardai made two "highly significant" arrests and seized €10,000 in cash as part of a major surveillance operation against 'The New IRA' last Friday in Co Louth.

The so-called New IRA is a small but deadly organisation which has also been linked to separate killings of another prison officer and a policeman.

Its members are said to be drawn from Omagh, Coalisland and the Toomebridge and Ballyronan areas along the shore of Lough Neagh, as well as areas in Monaghan and Louth.

Senior officers on both sides of the border have concerns dissidents may be planning attacks to mark the centenary this year of the Easter Rising.