Sinn Fein: Can’t keep army out, can’t stop dissidents…

DESPITE going to Press before last night’s shooting, John Mooney’s article seems remarkably prescient, and on another day might have been decried as scaremongering. His story detailed security force fears that dissidents were “planning opportunistic gun attacks on individual police officers”.

“The RIRA and CIRA are no longer obsessed with the notion of mounting a ‘spectacular’ bomb attack on a high profile target,” said a security source. “It is just as likely that, sooner or later, a PSNI officer on the beat will be shot dead by a stranger who simply walks up to them and produces a gun.”

Mooney also reports that the dissident republican groups have become increasingly splintered, “making monitoring more difficult. The RIRA has divided into four groups and the CIRA has split”. If true, perhaps this need for more intelligence resources best explains the use of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment – an attack was rightly predicted as imminent, but the fact that it happened suggests a lack of specific knowledge by the police and army. Now go to iPlayer and listen to Inside Politics from yesterday afternoon. Martin McGuinness characterised the “damaging” decision to use the SRR against dissident “micro-groups” as “stupid” and “dangerous”, “like stepping back in time”, and sending out “a very negative message” to “deal with a threat that many people think is over-inflated”. But he did not answer Devenport’s question about whether the introduction of the SRR would be worth it if it saved a life. Caught like a deer in the headlights, Sinn Fein have been made to look weak and ineffectual by, ironically, both the Chief Constable and hardline militant republicanism. No wonder there’s still no response at time of writing from Sinn Fein on the shooting.