Northern Ireland news

Bomb-making parts found in Co Antrim linked to dissidents

Explosives and bomb making parts found in Carnfunnock Country Park near Larne, Co Antrim. Police are linking the find to dissidents
David Young

DISSIDENTS are believed to have hidden bomb-making equipment found in a park in Co Antrim, PSNI assistant chief constable Will Kerr has said.

Items including circuit boards, partially-constructed timer power units and explosives were found in plastic barrels buried in undergrowth at Carnfunnock Country Park near Larne.

It had been unclear which group was behind the bomb-making equipment, discovered by a member of the public on Saturday of last week.

ACC Kerr said a dissident link is now police's main line of enquiry.

"There were a significant number of devices that could have been constructed out of the items that were found there," he told UTV.

His comments came as pipe bomb components linked to dissidents were seized in the Fountain Street area of Strabane yesterday.

Police also carried out searches in Derry and a 48-year-old man from the city was arrested yesterday morning about dissident activity.

ACC Kerr, the officer leading the fight against dissident republicans, said police stop up to four planned attacks for every one the groups manage to complete.

He said dissidents' widening attack capabilities, ranging from car bombs to rocket fired grenades, are "deeply concerning".

But he stressed their activities also needed to be put in "perspective" and insisted there was no likelihood of a return to the widespread violence of the Troubles.

The overview from the head of the PSNI's serious crime branch comes amid warnings from police that dissidents are planning to mark the 1916 centenary commemoration by killing security force members in the north.

Last week a 52-year-old prison officer required surgery after a bomb detonated under the van he was driving in Belfast. The group known as 'the IRA' claimed responsibility.

"We stop three or four attacks for every one that gets through," said Mr Kerr.

"We stop the vast majority of attacks. We are not in any way complacent about that and never will be complacent."

He added: "There are a few hundred active DRs (dissident republicans) who are involved in active dissident republican operations but there would be a much smaller number, most of whom would have very significant terrorist experience, who are involved in directing terrorism and the leadership of these groups as well.

"These DR groups are dangerous, but we need to keep a bit of perspective around them as well.

"They are not in the same scale in terms of numbers and capability as terrorist campaigns we have experienced in the past - it's not the same pace of attacks, it's not the same volume of attacks."

He said dissidents have "very limited community support and traction" and are involved in an "entirely futile campaign".

But he warned that republican and loyalist paramilitaries would continue to operate unless communities give police more information.

"Our job is to protect people today but we are not getting the information we need, in the round, from both loyalist and republican communities to enable us to do that as successfully or effectively as we could," he said.

He said too many people saw intelligence gathering them through the lens of the Troubles.

"If we don't start to challenge that and re-frame that conversation and reset that relationship we are going to end up with this constant cycle with paramilitary groups on both sides," he said.

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