A year on from the killing of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar shot at Massereene army base in Antrim there is now incontrovertible evidence that dissident republicans have the capacity to do immense damage into the future. Two developments in dissident republican engineering have forced the police to reassess their approach.
The bomb at Newry courthouse was the first time since Omagh on August 15 1998 that a so called improvised explosive device actually detonated. And the second development which is worrying the police is the fact that so called under vehicle bombs are having a deadly impact as was the case in the bomb attack on GAA footballer and PSNI officer Peadar Heffron.A similar device under the passenger seat of a car belonging to a police officer’s girlfriend in East Belfast was further evidence of growing expertise in the hands of dissidents. Does this mean dissident engineering skills are improving or has there been an influx of fresh personnel with real bomb-making skills? Neither of these two factors is mutually exclusive.
It has also been revealed that the Newry bombers had undertaken a dry run to the courthouse nearly a year ago in a huge disruptive exercise which paralysed traffic.
There is no evidence that security experts are seeing particularly new or original technology. What is shaking the police to the core is the fact that these -IEDS ( improvised explosive devices) are now detonating.
What is not clear is why rebel republicans are now having success after such a long period of botched operations like the device discovered not far from Ballykinlar security base in South Down. Again the bomb at the policing board headquarters in Belfast only partially exploded.
A former IRA activist who is totally committed to the peace and political processes is highly critical of some of the individuals known to him who are linked to dissident republicanism.
He pointed out it is not always easy to know the young people now involved because the IRA ended the war in 1994 when some of these people were only children.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty