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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

East15 Acting School: Finance and Contracts Officer

£20,781 to £24,057 per annum: East15 Acting School: The post involves general ...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Support Manager

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role's responsibility also...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager - Heli Ski Specialist

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: ACS qualified Domestic Gas Brea...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen