North of Ireland terror expert predicts bomb ‘spectacular’ by dissidents in Brexit run-up

Ex-RUC/PSNI officer says that New IRA upping the ante

Former RUC/PSNI officer Ken Pennington

An expert in counter-terrorism has warned that dissident republicans are planning a major bomb “spectacular” in the run-up to Brexit.

Ken Pennington also said that between now and October 31 – the UK deadline for leaving the EU – the New IRA may attempt a series of deadly attacks, like the booby-trap device that was planted under a police officer’s car earlier this month.

Mr Pennington, a former PSNI superintendent who served with police for 30 years before moving into counter-terrorism, said the likely target for a lethal explosion was a “major economic hub such as Belfast or Londonderry”.

The retired officer, who helped foil a car bomb attack at Victoria Square in Belfast city centre in 2013, said Brexit was “like the fall of the Berlin Wall on a European scale” which makes it “very significant” for the New IRA.

“The border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is a truly international phenomenon,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“There will be protests on the border, which means the world’s Press will descend on Northern Ireland to cover the story, and what does terrorism want? It wants the oxygen of publicity.”

Mr Pennington said incidents like the Bishop Street car bomb in Londonderry in January, the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in the city in April and the attempted murder of a PSNI officer at the start of June show that the New IRA is upping the ante.

He also predicted “a series of attacks in the run-up to and including Brexit Day on October 31, primarily against police – but if they feel the police are too difficult a target, they will move to people associated with police”.

“Certainly over the summer we’ll see a rise in the tempo of dissident terrorist operations,” said Mr Pennington, who fronts The Last Castle, an anti-terrorism and human rights consultancy.

“Then after August, when the nights start closing in, it will be easier for them to mount their operations.”

When asked to define “spectacular”, Mr Pennington said he was talking about “a large vehicle-borne IED [improvised explosive device] in the city centre”.

“They attempted that in Derry at the courthouse at the start of the year,” Mr Pennington said.

“I’ll think they’ll go for a massive bomb in a city centre – in Belfast, Derry or wherever they can inflict the maximum economic damage.

“It’s also about the publicity. They’re going to want this to be somewhere significant. Westminster Bridge happened because it’s Westminster Bridge.”

But he said there could be no real certainty about where the next dissident terrorist strike might be because of certain factors that must be taken into account.

“A terrorist attack has three components: intention, capability and opportunity. Do they want to do it? Have they the means to do it? And is there a chance to do it?

“If you take away the opportunity they’ll move to secondary targets.

“And, of course, minds will be concentrated on the security side and they will be working to prevent something happening, as well.”

Referring to the recent failed booby-trap bomb under the car of a senior off-duty PSNI officer at Shandon Park Golf Club, Mr Pennington said that was typical of the New IRA murder gang’s modus operandi.

“That’s just a given,” he said.

“That could happen any day. That’s what they want to do.

“These people are not large in number – there are less than 400 of them – but an under-car booby trap is a very low-risk attack.

“We’re not dealing with Isis here. They’re not suicide bombers. They don’t want to hurt themselves. They’ll do their hostile reconnaissance, they’ll check if the target is security-aware or not and then they’ll place the device.”

He added: “I see a series of attempts at those from now onwards but I think they’ll be looking towards a spectacular in and around the time of Brexit.”

New fears have emerged that membership of the New IRA is on the rise. At the weekend, Irish security sources, quoted by The Sunday Times, reported that members of a group styling itself Oglaigh na hEireann (OnH) are defecting to them.

The OnH – comprising former members of the Provisional IRA – was responsible for dozens of punishment shootings and attacks on security forces, as well as a spate of terrorist attacks on police in Northern Ireland.

These include d the maiming of Catholic PSNI officer Peadar Heffron, who lost a leg in 2010 after an OnH bomb planted under his car exploded.

Asked about the threat level posed by the New IRA, Mr Pennington said they could prove to be new PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne’s “biggest headache” going forward.

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Claire McNeilly for the original story

Chief constable’s remarks on policing ill-timed


The Irish News 19/06/2019

The timing of George Hamilton’s remarks that Catholics must be encouraged by community leaders to seek a career in policing could not have been more ill-judged nor ill-timed coming as it did after the debacle of the arrest of two investigative reporters whose aim was to get the truth of who was involved in the Loughinisland massacre. A tragedy like so many that encompassed the potential of state collusion.

These recent events challenge the chief constable’s assertion of an ‘honourable profession of policing’ and undermines and devalues the very idea of impartiality and unbiased law enforcement.
The search warrants issued for these two journalists described by a court ruling as ‘inappropriate’ may serve as a timely reminder to the Catholic/nationalist community that the PSNI remains steeped in protectionism and that its interests are the state’s interests which will trump the safety and interest of the Catholic/nationalist citizens at every turn.

The PSNI continues to stymie and frustrate any challenge to their activities, past and present –despite the chief constable’s statement that ‘they must go where the evidence takes us’.
I am sure these words ring hollow with the many families of the victims where collusion is strongly implicated.

I am unclear as to what the chief constable’s intention was in issuing his statement.
I am sure there are many more who share that uncertainty and scepticism.

Because to my mind the evidence of the previous week certainly does not add up to an open and transparent appeal from a man whose organisation remains neither.
Belfast BT15

With many thanks to the: Troops Out Movement for the original posting

RUC/PSNI refuses to provide latest child sex abuse figures

RUC/PSNI refuses to provide latest abuse figures

THE Police Service of Northern Ireland is refusing to provide the public with updates on the number of sex abuse victims that are approaching them in Fermanagh.

Two weeks ago it was announced that 19 sex abuse cases were being reviewed by police following a long-running investigation into child sex abuse by this newspaper.

The Impartial Reporter understands this figure has increased in recent weeks but the PSNI is refusing to comment and in fact say they will no longer be providing such updates.

In a statement issued yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) a PSNI spokeswoman said: “Our view remains at this time that there is no information to suggest there was a network of organised involvement in the abuse of children in the Fermanagh area.”

The spokeswoman explained the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch receive and investigate reports of child sexual abuse, both recent and historical, across Northern Ireland every day.

“These reports come from a variety of sources including victims, parents, friends, counselling services, Health and Social Care and, as we have recently seen 14 reports have been referred to us by The Impartial Reporter.

“We, of course, would continue to encourage victims to come forward to police. If you have been the victim of sexual abuse, or know someone this has happened to, please contact the police service on 101 or through our dedicated email address at where you will be put in contact with a specially trained officer.”

The spokeswoman added: “In order to protect the integrity of the cases we are currently investigating and reviewing, we will not be commenting further at this time.”

To report a crime to the PSNI call 101 and for help and support phone Nexus NI on 028 9032 6803. Share your story in the strictest of confidence, contact or phone 028 66 32 44 22.

With many thanks to the: Impartial Reporter and Rodney Edwards Senior Reporter for the original story @rodneyedwards

New IRA explanation of why Belfast car bomb failed to explode is waffle, says ex-senior officer

The New IRA were behind the device planted under a police officer’s car

A former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable has rubbished New IRA claims that a car bomb failed to explode because of the “level terrain” travelled by the policeman targeted in last Saturday’s attack.

Alan McQuillan dismissed reports that a device found under the vehicle of a senior officer at Shandon Park Golf Club in Belfast was a redesign of a Provisional IRA prototype.

“There are lots of reasons why it didn’t go off, but flat terrain is not one of them,” he said.

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“This is an act of maximum desperation to try and justify themselves by boasting of their capability, but in reality they haven’t proved to be that capable.

“To say this device is a redesign is just waffle.”

In a statement issued to the Irish News using a recognised code word and signed T. O’Neill, the ‘IRA’ said it planted the under-car bomb.

“The IRA claims responsibility for the recent under car booby trap,” it read.

The newspaper also reported that it believes the device, which police have described as “sophisticated”, contained a motion-activated mercury tilt switch.

Such a device would require sudden movement in order to detonate.

“We are confident the device would have exploded if it was not for the level terrain it had travelled on,” the sinister statement added.

“We were unlucky this time but we only have to be lucky once.”

However, Mr McQuillan said terrain has little to do with how the tilt mechanism functions, as he accused the dissident terror gang of lying.

Former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Alan McQuillan

“It’s the motion of the vehicle which causes the switch to activate, so this suggestion doesn’t ring true,” he explained.

“The mercury in the glass capsule runs to one end and sets the bomb off — the motion can be caused by the car being on a hill, the brakes being applied or the accelerator.

“You’d have to drive extremely carefully for it to fail to explode.”

Mr McQuillan also dismissed reports that 1.5lbs of TNT used to make the device was sourced from US and Australian commercial organisations as “nothing new”.

“They have commercial contacts as a result of their drug dealing channels,” he added.

The security expert said the New IRA’s bravado is an attempt to save its own reputation following its first attack since the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

The 29-year-old was shot dead by the group during rioting in Londonderry in April.

“People are fed up with them after Lyra and they know it,” Mr McQuillan said.

“Most people want nothing to do with them after the reckless killing of a young woman.”

However, Mr McQuillan conceded that the terror group should not be underestimated, despite being riddled with informants and under constant watch by the security services.

“These are experienced older people who are sending out very inexperienced younger people to do their dirty work,” he added.

“It’s this lack of experience that makes them very dangerous.

“But they’ve lost their leader Seamus McGrane and many more have been arrested.”

The Real IRA leader — whose group was a founding faction of the New IRA — was jailed in 2017 for planning an explosion during a visit of Prince Charles to Ireland in 2015.

He died behind bars last month.

Another security source, who described those behind the attack as “absolutely bloodthirsty”, believes that the device must have been old.

“That’s why it didn’t go off,” they said.

“Those behind it are very lucky they didn’t blow themselves up, but they will keep going until they are successful and beyond that.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Brett Campbell for the original story

TNT plastic explosives used in east Belfast bomb

A part of a device removed from a PSNI man’s car in East Belfast last weekend

A powerful plastic explosive is believed to have been used in the bomb planted under a PSNI officer’s car by the ‘IRA’ in east Belfast last weekend.

The senior officer escaped with his life after the device was spotted under his vehicle at Shandon Park Golf Club in Saturday afternoon.

In a statement the ‘IRA’ said it planted the potentially deadly device, which police later described as “sophisticated”.

It is believed the bomb consisted of 1 ½ lb of a plastic explosives known as TNT and a mercury tilt switch.

It was previously suspected that the ‘IRA’ had access to a quantity of TNT, which is used by both the US and Australian military and in commercial organisations.

It is considered to be safer to use than other types of explosives and less prone to accidental detonation.

Two cars linked to the attempted bomb attack in East Belfast were burnt out in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast

A haul of the substance was recovered after armed Gardaí stopped a taxi in Dublin in June 2017. More than 5kg of explosives, detonators and other military grade items were seized during the operation.

In the past republican groups have used Semtex to make undercar bombs and other devices.

However, the use of TNT suggests that new supply routes may have been established in recent years.

In February 2017 the ‘IRA’ said it used a “new type of tilt switch, detonator and plastic explosives” in a bomb which was left under the car of PSNI officer in the Culmore area of Derry.

It is understood the device used at the weekend is similar to those previously deployed by the Provisional IRA, although it is believed the design has been updated.

It is believed to consist of several switches and a pin, which is removed sets off a timer.

It is understood these features are designed to ensure that the device will not detonate while being handled by the bombers.

Over the last decade undercar devices have killed and injured several people.

In 2008 a Catholic officer was injured when a bomb exploded under his car as he drove to work near Castlederg.

In January 2010 former PSNI man Peadar Heffron was seriously injured when a bomb exploded under his car near Randalstown, Co Antrim.

More than a year later in April 2011 another Catholic officer Ronan Kerr died when a similar bomb exploded under his car in Omagh.

In June 2015 a device was found under a car outside the home of a couple, who were both PSNI officers, at Eglington near Derry.

In October that year a device was also placed under a VW Transporter used by a British soldier in north Belfast but fell off.

In March 2016 prison officer Adrian Ismay died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van as he drove through east Belfast.

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly condemned those behind the attacks.

“I don’t know how they have not got the message they have no place and support in the community here in the north.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Connla Young for the original story

New IRA say they tried to kill PSNI officer

Pictures right, a part of a device removed from a car at Shandon Park Golf Club in East Belfast last weekend. One of the two cars involved in the attack was found burnt out in the Ardoyne area of Belfast

ThE ‘IRA’ has claimed responsibility for planting a bomb under the car of a PSNI officer last weekend.

The senior officer was lucky to escape with his life after the deadly device was discovered under his vehicle at Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast on Saturday afternoon.

The Irish News understands the bomb contained high powered plastic explosives.

The attempted attack was the first carried out by the ‘IRA’ – which is often referred to as the New IRA – since journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead by the group during a riot in Derry in April.

In a statement issued to the Irish News using a recognised code word and signed T. O’Neill, the ‘IRA’ said it planted the undercar bomb.

A part of a device removed from a car at Shandon Park Golf Club in East Belfast last weekend

“The IRA claims responsibility for the recent under car booby trap,” the statement said.

It is understood the device, which police have described as “sophisticated,” contained a mercury tilt switch, which is motion activated and normally requires a sudden movement to trigger an explosion.

“We are confident the device would have exploded if it was not for the level terrain it had travelled on,” the statement added.

“We were unlucky this time but we only have to be lucky once.”

Two cars which have been linked to the attempted bomb attack were found on fire in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast in the early hours of Saturday morning.

A cross border probe was launched after it emerged that one of the vehicles was fitted with Dublin number plates.

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said that the potentially deadly attack was discussed during both public and private sessions when the board met yesterday.

“It’s deeply concerning,” she said.

“There is a broad (feeling) that the police officer was very lucky,” she said.

“It was intended to kill, it was not one that was going to injure you.”

Ms Kelly said there was little support for such action.

“The message form everyone in the community is loud and clear – these people have no support,” he said.

Shandon Park Golf Club is located close to the PSNI’s headquarters at Knock and the intended target was said to be badly shaken by the attempt on his life.

Under car devices have been used to deadly effect by the ‘IRA’ in the past.

In March 2016 prison officer Adrian Ismay died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van as he drove through east Belfast.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Connla Young for the original story

North of Ireland police officers reject Mordaunt’s call for Troubles’ amnesty

Police Federation chair says no one should be above the law, placing him at odds with defence secretary

RUC/PSNI officers in Belfast

Rank and file police officers facing ongoing paramilitary death threats in Northern Ireland have come out against a special amnesty for members of the security forces who served during the Troubles.

The head of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland (PFNI) said on Wednesday that no one should be above the law.

The intervention of the federation’s chair, Mark Lindsay, in the debate over the Troubles’ legacy is at odds with the demands of the Conservative party leadership contender and defence secretary, Penny Mordaunt. She has backed calls for military veterans of the Northern Irish conflict to be covered by amnesty from prosecution.

But Lindsay, who speaks for about 7,000 officers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, also demanded that serving and retired personnel be given the same access to legal aid as law firms that are seeking to prosecute security forces’ veterans over controversial Troubles killings.

On legacy and mainly Tory-led demands for a military amnesty, Lindsay told the PFNI’s annual conference in Belfast: “There cannot be two different evidential thresholds. As police officers, both serving and retired, we have never sought to be treated any differently than other sections of our communities. A crime is a crime no matter who committed it.”

Referring to the IRA and loyalist paramilitary forces, which were responsible for the majority of violent deaths between 1969 and 1997, Lindsay continued: “Those who caused the bloodshed and mayhem must not be allowed to escape justice simply because their actions are weighed against a less rigorous legal test.

“It is perverse to set up institutions which will seek to investigate retired officers, whilst we have already had to release terrorist prisoners from prison, grant pardons and issue comfort letters. Let’s not forget also, that decommissioning [of IRA and loyalist weapons] legislation enabled terrorist groups to destroy ballistic and forensic evidence.”

He claimed there was a risk of “creating a new community of victims” among former and retired police officers who will “have to delve into their pensions and savings to mount their own legal defences” in legacy investigations.

Lindsay added: “The imbalance of the accuser getting seemingly unlimited legal aid, while the accused former officer is left to his or her own devices is not lost on anyone. That is wrong on every level. It is blatant discrimination.”

After a New IRA booby-trap murder attempt on a police officer at a Belfast golf club earlier this week, Lindsay said a recent PFNI workforce survey showed morale was low among nine out of 10 officers in the region.

The unilateral pursuit of police officers and security force personnel over the Troubles would only compound that rock bottom morale, Lindsay said.

He warned that the glorification of the murder of police officers even 100 years ago in the first shots of the Irish war of independence helped “radicalise the young people of today” and excused the murder of his officers in the 21st century.

In April this year a former paratrooper known as Soldier F was prosecuted for the murder of two people at a civil rights march on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

Soldier F’s cause has been championed by former army generals and Conservative MPs including the current defence secretary. Last month, Mordaunt said serving and retired troops should be covered by an amnesty that included conflicts stretching from Iraq and Afghanistan all the way back 50 years to the start of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

So far, the government and the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, have resisted military veterans and their supporters’ demands for a blanket amnesty for troops in both present and past wars.

Police officers, both serving and retired, have opposed moves towards amnesties because it could lead to a catch-all amnesty regime that would also absolve former paramilitaries from prosecution over past Troubles crimes.

With many thanks to: The Guardian and Henry McDonald for the original story