Page last updated at 12:03 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

Dissidents more active, says IMC

Attempted bomb attack in County Fermanagh
Dissident republicans have been behind a number of recent attacks

Republican dissidents are more active than at any time in the last four and a half years, the Independent Monitoring Commission has said.

The body, which monitors paramilitary activity, said dissidents are directing their efforts to kill PSNI officers.

In its 20th report the IMC said dissidents have "engineered" public disorder to expose officers to attack.

It said the current political vacuum in Northern Ireland is likely being exploited by the groups.

In its report to the British and Irish governments, the IMC said dissidents had sought to raise tensions with loyalists during the parades season.

It said in previous years, when one group was active, another would be less so.

"In the past few months the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA have been more active at the same time," the report said.

"One possible reason for this may be a perception that the absence of progress on the devolution of justice and policing has created a political vacuum, or may have caused disaffection among republican supporters, which the dissidents think they are able to exploit."

As in its last assessment, the report once again confirms, that the Provisional IRA had maintained an "exclusively political path".

On the subject of loyalists, the IMC said that although some loyalists want to make progress, they still had work to do especially in the area of decommissioning and that progress had been slow.

The report covered the period between 1 March and the end of August.

Responding to it, Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said society in Northern Ireland has clearly and decisively moved on but that challenges remain to secure an end to paramilitarism.

"That process would be greatly enhanced by the devolution of policing and justice powers," he said.

The Republic's justice minister, Dermot Ahern, said dissident republicans had no mandate and represented only themselves.

"Members of these groups need to leave behind their failed ideology, move on and join the rest of the people of this island in rejecting violence," he said.

DUP assembly member William McCrea dismissed the link between political deadlock and dissident violence.

"I cannot agree with anyone who suggests that dissident republicans are rioting in the streets, shooting at the police and planting bombs because they want to see the immediate devolution of policing and justice powers to the Stormont assembly," he said.

Ulster Unionist Tom Elliot said the report made "grim reading".

"We certainly owe the security forces a great deal of thanks, but with the potential for more attacks a reality we also need to give them our full support as they work to uphold the peace," he said.

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