Police dilemma over bomb warning at races

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The Independent Online
THE CONTINUITY IRA, in whose name the Kempton Park bomb warning was given, is tiny compared with the mainstream IRA. But since it has never declared a ceasefire, calls mentioning its name present the authorities with a dilemma.

Although the group is small the fact that it reportedly has ambitions to mount a bombing attack in Britain means any warning purporting to come from it gives police serious pause for thought.

At a guess, the group probably commands no more than 5 per cent of the manpower or capacity of the IRA. It is also under heavy pressure from police in both parts of Ireland, who now have many more men and resources to keep tabs on it.

None the less, the authorities can never be completely sure the group might not slip through with one device. Dissident republicans were detected in April last year trying to ship a device to England, reportedly with the Grand National as the target. The Continuity IRA is one of a web of small groups that want the republican war to go on and oppose IRA and Sinn Fein involvement in the peace process.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan, RUC Chief Constable, and Gardai in Dublin have periodically warned that such factions continue to represent a danger to the peace. Sir Ronnie said in October: "Dissident republican groups pose a serious and growing threat, largely but not exclusively along the border. That gives no room for complacency whatever. We believe they have the intention and determination to attack police or military colleagues along the border, but other types of attack cannot be ruled out."

There is a general sense that even the most fanatical republican rebels accept the nationalist community would not support or even tolerate an attempt to bring the Troubles back to Northern Ireland. There has therefore been speculation that, rather than giving up altogether, they might try to stage an attack in England.

There appear to be two main threats among breakaway republicans. One is the Continuity IRA, which has its roots in a breakaway from the IRA and Sinn Fein in the mid-1980s, when some republicans left in protest at early moves in the peace process. But more interest has recently been aroused by another group said to consist of remnants of the Real IRA, which was responsible for last year's Omagh bombings, alongside individuals previously associated with the Continuity IRA, the mainstream IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army.

This miscellaneous grouping has not declared truces either. It is regarded as having suffered a setback this year when an underground firing range north of Dublin was raided. Seven men face charges in connection with the incident.