Cabinet warned of IRA hit squads

COLIN BROWN

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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project