After a decade of relative calm following the historic 1998 Good Friday agreement that led the IRA to disarm and support the peace process, Northern Ireland is facing renewed threat of terrorism with splinter Republican groups, opposed to the agreement, reported to be regrouping to revive their violent campaign for a united Ireland.
On Friday, police claimed they had foiled a bomb plot after seizing a lorry packed with explosives. The lorry, which reportedly contained enough explosives to build a 500-kg bomb, was found under a flyover on the road between Belfast and Dublin, the respective capitals of Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Police said the discovery of the plot confirmed their fears that dissident Republican groups such as the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA planned to carry out a major terror attack to coincide with Christmas and New Year celebrations. Businesses were warned about the possibility of an attack following intelligence about attempts to smuggle a bomb from Ireland into Northern Ireland.
The alleged plot is the latest in a series of violent incidents in recent months, including attacks on police stations and army units. A few weeks ago, an attempt was made to blow up the headquarters of the local policing board in the heart of Belfast and at least 20 police officers and their families have been forced to leave their homes in Northern Ireland in the past six months because of threat of assassination by dissident groups.
Last month, a High Court judge was forced to abandon his home in north Belfast over fears for his life.
A spokesman for the Police Federation expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in the province.
“We know that the PSNI’s high command [Police Service of Northern Ireland] is extremely anxious about the vulnerability of officers and their families,” he told The Guardian which said a number of PSNI officers had been “relocated to secret addresses” following intelligence that some republican groups were preparing to take their campaign to a “new level”.