Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan says police will take action over dissident Republican threats to Irish service personnel visiting family in Ireland
A threat by breakaway and dissident Republican groups based in Ireland to murder Irish people serving in the British Army and Police Service of Northern Ireland on home visits has been condemned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The MoD was reacting to the public death threats issued by the Continuity IRA at a commemorative event in Limerick at the week-end.
It said it is immediately taking steps to contact the 400 Irish men and women serving in the Army, Navy and RAF and to advise them of special measures to be taken.
Gardai in Limerick had earlier thwarted an attempt to murder a local man in his 20s who is serving in the British Army and who had been due to visit his family in the city at Christmas.
An MOD spokesman said: “We condemn any threat of mindless violence against members of the British Armed Forces. We are committed to protecting them and all Irish personnel are being informed about this specific threat. The statement made by the Continuity IRA is a matter for the Garda Síochána.
The blatant CIRA threat was made at the annual Sean South memorial march in Limerick at the weekend organised by the Republican Sein Fein.
The threat was made in public in front of about 60 participants in the march and in front of Gardai.
A statement on behalf of the Continunity IRA was read at the commemoration by Michael Kiely from County Limerick.
He said: “We have see from recent years that in this city of Limerick that Irishman are considering a career in
he British Army – the same British Army that holds six of our counties.
“Whether they are motivated by financial reasons or a sense of adventurism, we take this opportunity to say that the moment you don a British Army uniform you become a legitimate target for the IRA.
“The lessons of Irish history teach us that as long as the British presence remains in Ireland, there will always be those who oppose it by whatever means necessary. The war is not over. It will only be over when every last British soldier is driven from our shores.”
Kiely said Irish people serving in the Police Service of Northern Ireland were also legitimate targets for murder in the eyes of the CIRA.
MI5 says there are several dissident republican terrorist groups in Northern Ireland, all of whom reject the 1998 Belfast Agreement and continue to carry out attacks.
“They were formed after splits within the Provisional IRA (PIRA) and oppose political engagement with the British and Irish governments on any subject other than the establishment of a united Irish republic.
“The main dissident republican groups are the Continuity IRA (CIRA), the Real IRA (RIRA) and a group calling itself Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH; 'soldiers of Ireland' in Irish Gaelic). There are also other dissident republican terrorist groupings not affiliated to RIRA, CIRA or ONH.
“CIRA and RIRA were established after hard-line Provisional IRA members rejected their leadership's decision to engage with the British and Irish governments. ONH originated from RIRA. These groups consider themselves to be the legitimate successors of the original Irish Republican Army.
“This view is rejected by mainstream Irish republicans, who have been strongly critical of all dissident republicans.”
Sir Jonathan Evans, the Director General of MI5, said in a major speech in September 2010 the separate identities of these groups are "based on marginal distinctions and personal rivalries".
“Their position is very different to that of the Provisional IRA during the Troubles. PIRA had significant political support in Northern Ireland and a credible political strategy to operate alongside its terrorist campaign.
“By contrast, there is little or no evidence that today's dissident republican groups have a viable political programme,” he said.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Niall Collins, a Limerick TD, described yesterday's activities and the statements made as disgraceful and regretful.
He said a trend was emerging in recent times of these types of displays
Limerick Sinn Fein Councillor Maurice Quinlivan added: “In terms of the statements that were made which efectively a death threat to a number of people who are in employment with the British military forces. There should be no place in our society for these people. It is about time that the people like this realised that the vast majority of people are signed up for the Good Friday agreement, to support the peace process and that is what we want to do. We don’t want to go back to the horrible situation we had in this country years ago. There is no support for [these threats] and they need to grow up and get off the pitch.”
In mid-December it was reported that gardai in Limerick foiled a plot by dissident Republican criminals to assassinate a soldier in the British Army while he returned to his family in Limerick city this Christmas.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter declined to comment but did say that Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan had confirmed to him that there was “an ongoing operation in Limerick aimed at the activities of a certain group”.
Five people have been charged in relation to the December incident.