Mayhew dismisses IRA as criminal gangsters

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, launched a strong attack on the IRA yesterday as army experts spent the day dealing with a suspect bomb in a van in north Belfast.

Bomb-disposal personnel carried out a controlled explosion on a van parked in the grounds of Belfast Castle on Tuesday night. A telephone caller who gave a recognised IRA codeword said a landmine had been abandoned in the grounds because of security activity in the area.

In a BBC radio interview yesterday, Sir Patrick concentrated his fire on the IRA, saying that the Government had been flexible in the peace process but had had its efforts rejected. He added: "I'm afraid it demonstrates that those who have said that the IRA are nothing but a lot of criminal gangsters, who will continue to wave the Armalite in one hand while using the ballot box in the other, were right."

The placing of the Belfast Castle device fits into the recently established pattern of the IRA attempting to carry out bomb attacks, in Belfast and elsewhere, every few days. Most of the attempts have been abortive, for various reasons, but both republicans and the security forces predict that it is only a matter of time before one of the attacks "connects" and causes casualties.

The most notorious of the IRA attacks came just before Christmas, when a gunman opened fire on police officers in the corridor of children's hospital in Belfast. This caused widespread condemnation and led to two loyalist bomb attacks.

In another incident, a well-known north Belfast republican, Eddie Copeland, was injured when a booby-trap bomb went off under his car. Another similar device was attached to a vehicle belonging to a former republican prisoner in Londonderry, but this was spotted.

Although no organisation has openly admitted responsibility for the attacks, security sources hold the Ulster Defence Association responsible. Loyalist sources confirm this privately. In addition to the attacks, two senior republican figures, Martin McGuinness and Belfast councillor Alex Maskey, have been warned by the RUC that their lives are in danger.

Asked yesterday about loyalist violence, Sir Patrick was determinedly reticent, in contrast to his uninhibited rhetoric against the republicans. He said he did not think the loyalist ceasefire was over, adding of the Copeland bomb attack: "I don't as yet know, and I don't think anybody as yet knows, who did that evil thing."

This is at odds with the security assessment that the UDA was undoubtedly responsible. Sir Patrick's circumspection is assumed to be related to the Stormont political talks, in which a UDA-related group, the Ulster Democratic Party, is taking part. A clear public linkage of the bombings to the UDA would endanger the UDP's continuing involvement in the talks. The Government and most other parties are anxious to avoid the expulsion of the loyalists, which means that at present most are refraining from publicly pointing the finger.

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
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect