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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 14:11 GMT
Bombing follows dissident pattern

Mahon's was damaged in Sunday's dissident attack Politicians were to attend a meeting at Mahon's

The bombing of a County Fermanagh hotel on Sunday night follows repeated warnings from senior police officers on both sides of the Northern Ireland border that republican dissidents continue to pose a threat.

Both the Continuity IRA and Real IRA have been recruiting and rearming in preparation for a campaign to wreck the Northern Ireland peace process.

The Continuity IRA, which is believed to be responsible for the Irvinestown bomb, is the only republican organisation which has not called a ceasefire.

Once again it has emerged at a time when the peace process in trouble, something which fits into a pattern of activity spread over several years.

Previous attacks

The splinter republican organisation was behind a bomb attack on the Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen four years ago in July 1996.

Fermanagh bomb was placed under oil tank in hotel carpark Fermanagh bomb was placed under oil tank in hotel carpark
The attack followed a week-long marching stand-off at Drumcree.

In September 1997, it placed at bomb in Markethill, in south Armagh, just 24 hours after Sinn Fein joined the political negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement.

In January 1998, a Continuity IRA bomb wrecked a club in County Fermanagh. The explosion coincided with a series of loyalist attacks, which followed the murder of the Portadown Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright.

The latest explosion in Irvinestown comes in a week when the new political institutions are facing suspension because of the stalemate over paramilitary arms decommissioning.

Once against this attack by the Continuity IRA looks deliberately timed to add to the peace process's troubles.

Attack on mainstream republicans

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Stephen Grimason said the bomb would not help the current situation.

Stephen Grimason: Unionists will want to know if semtex was used Stephen Grimason: Unionists will want to know if semtex was used
"We are hearing an argument reinforced from unionists that if these things are left lying around then people will use them.

"So the anti-agreement unionists will be using this as a weapon.

"But I would have thought it will harden the attitudes of the Ulster Unionist Council and the Ulster Unionist executive, meeting tonight on the issue of weapons," he said.

Stephen Grimason added that unionists in general would want to hear about the forensics of the bomb and if there was a semtex booster charge used.

"They will use that as another means of saying that this is all the IRA," he said.

Brian Rowan: Nothing to suggest it was another group
But he said there would be those who would see this as a move against Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams because it removed the room for manoeuvre that he had. BBC Northern Ireland chief security correspondent Brian Rowan said the bomb contained one to two kilos of high explosive, but that the security forces have not yet revealed what type it was.

He said the bomb had the appearance of the Continuity IRA which in "times of trouble made more trouble".

"They would see this as a reminder that they are still out there and as a reminder to other republicans that there is an alternative to the mainstream IRA, and to the peace process strategy.

"It is about damaging a process that this organisation very much opposes, a process in which they believe republicans principles have been sold out," he said.

Cross-over between groups

Brian Rowan said security sources believe in some areas the Real IRA, Continuity IRA and the more mainstream Irish National Liberation Army co-operate in attacks.

INLA prisoners have been released under the Good Friday Agreement early prisoner release scheme, following the INLA's ceasefire declaration.

"In the Fermanagh area security forces believe the Continuity IRA is operating alone and there is a pattern of activity over a period of years. There is nothing to suggest it was any other group."

He said there was nothing coming from republicans or security sources at this time to suggest that the IRA has any intention of actual decommissioning in the "immediate period ahead".

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See also:
06 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
NI hotel bomb condemned
06 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Outrage at bombing
18 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
New crackdown on dissidents
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