Republican dissidents, thought to be from the Real IRA, are planning to assassinate the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, security sources confirmed privately last night.
Mr Adams was visited three days ago by officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who warned him of a serious threat to his personal safety. But he said yesterday: "Some of these groups are so heavily infiltrated that it is very hard to know who's pulling whose strings, or indeed if there is a real threat.
"All I know is I have a job of work to do, that I was elected to represent people. I don't intend to be intimidated from representing those who support our party and that wider group of people who support the peace process."
Security sources confirmed that there was a specific threat against the West Belfast MP and it is known that the security forces have been placed on high alert, expecting an upsurge of Real IRA violence.
Mr Adams and other prominent republicans have often been targeted by extreme loyalists. He was once shot and seriously injured by loyalists.
But this threat is assumed to come from the Real IRA, a breakaway group. Though tiny, the organisation is in a brittle and unpredictable state. The Real IRA has recently been active on various fronts. On Wednesday a Dublin court is due to deliver a verdict in the trial of its reputed head, Michael McKevitt. In June, just before the trial opened, the organisation unsuccessfully attempted to stage two major bombings in different parts of Northern Ireland. Some of its imprisoned members are on hunger strike or involved in other protests, while a Real IRA operation aimed at gathering intelligence on prominent individuals was recently detected at a Belfast hospital.
An attack on Mr Adams would send reverberations through the peace process, since it could lead to republican feuding and possibly large-scale breaches of the IRA's ceasefire. Its "cessation of violence" has already been breached recently, police believe, in that a missing republican, Gareth O'Connor, is thought to have been shot dead by the IRA.
Martin McGuinness has said dissidents were attempting to derail the peace process and bring about a situation where the IRA would go back to war. He declared: "I believe that their strategy will fail and will fail miserably."
¿ Irish police arrested 10 men and seized arms and ammunition last night after discovering a republican "terror camp" in a forest near Tipperary, thought to be linked to the Continuity IRA.Reuse content