One senior republican source told The Independent last night: "This is a lower-level military campaign aimed at disruption and sabotage more than the spectacular stuff. It is affecting tens of thousands of people, so it takes on a British national character. It is a strategy with a minimum threat to the lives of the civilian population and a maximum amount of publicity coverage and disruption to the British economy."
The source spoke after it was announced that the 150th Grand National will be restaged late this afternoon amid unprecedented security for a big sporting event.
After the search for bombs was completed, the Liverpool course was reopened yesterday afternoon, ending almost 24 hours of waiting for the thousands of people evacuated by the alert last Saturday who had been forced to leave their cars behind.
Security is now being reviewed for next Sunday's London marathon in the wake of events at the race course.
Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, reacted to the Aintree affair by smashing the all-party agreement on "terrorist incidents" - outlined in a memorandum sponsored by his own department which says that when comment is "unavoidable", politicians should restrict themselves to non-political statements.
But Mr Howard issued a statement yesterday morning, on Conservative Party paper, saying Labour was not to be trusted on terrorism because, in the wake of Aintree, Jack Straw, the shadow Home Secretary, had contradicted Marjorie Mowlam, the party's Northern Ireland spokeswoman, over the time span for allowing Sinn Fein into talks.
Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, told BBC radio: "I think that all decent people will regret the fact that ... when there should be an all- party consensus to fight terrorism, Michael Howard has degenerated into making personalised and inaccurate comments about the Labour Party."
The authentication of IRA responsibility for Aintree, coupled with the explanation of their motivation and the extent of their ambitions, confirms that the authorities all over Britain will now be compelled to review security at sporting events and other gatherings.
Republican sources say they expect the next British government to put out private "feelers" towards the IRA and Sinn Fein within weeks of its election.
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