Cabinet warned of IRA hit squads


Chief Political Correspondent

Intelligence and security officers have warned senior Cabinet ministers they will be targets for IRA assassination squads if the Northern Ireland ceasefire breaks down amid fresh fears for the peace process.

Protection on ministerial cars has been upgraded for some ministers who are believed to be on the IRA hit list. The cars, which have bullet-proof windows, have been fitted with sophisticated electronic sensing devices to alert the driver if a bomb has been attached to the underside.

MI5 and anti-terrorist officers in the Royal Ulster Constabulary have warned the Government that the IRA will strike quickly at targets on the mainland, if the ceasefire breaks down. "They have been told it will get very nasty, if the ceasefire ends, and that the targets will be on the mainland," said one Government source.

US Senator George Mitchell, who chaired the commission on decommissioning IRA arms, also expressed fears of a return to violence. He said an IRA splinter group could break the ceasefire and he also put renewed pressure on John Major to end the deadlock by calling all-party talks before the end of this month.

The secret security service warnings were publicly aired by Sir Hugh Annesley, the RUC Chief Constable, who said at the weekend that the bombing campaign would be directed at the mainland, if there is a return to violence. The security and intelligence forces have told ministers that the IRA has is active in Ireland and on the mainland, keeping a watch on possible targets, despite the ceasefire.

The ceasefire has allowed some security to be relaxed. John Major dodged through busy lanes of traffic in Whitehall last week when he went on foot to a Burns-night party at the Banqueting House, a few hundred yards from 10 Downing Street. He was accompanied by bodyguards wearing kilts.

Senator Mitchell said: "It seems clear that not all on the Republican side favour the ceasefire and the potential for some elements to take direct and violent action does remain.," he said on BBC TV's Breakfast with Frost.

Mr Mitchell, whose commission told the Government that the IRA would not decommission its arms before talks, said all sides should redouble their efforts for peace.

Asked whether the IRA would return to violence, he said: "I think there is a danger of a fracture within that organisation. I hope that is not the case. I do believe that the political parties that are closely associated with the paramilitary organisations on both sides, Republican and Loyalist, are committed to the process.

"That's why I believe it is important to draw them further into the democratic process by getting these negotiations going as soon as possible," Mr Mitchell said.

His warning came after the IRA denied responsibility for a gun attack during which 57 shots were fired at the home of a policeman in County Tyrone.

The IRA issued a coded message in Belfast condemning as "mischievous" claims that it was behind the attack.

The security remain optimistic that the peace will hold, but their fears underline the delicate balance in which the peace process is now held.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer / Developer

£12000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: New Full-time, Part-time and Fr...

Recruitment Genius: Multidrop Van Driver

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to rapid expansion, this family owned comp...

Recruitment Genius: Electrical Engineer

£26500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral