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Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson
"I utterly condemn this threat and the disruption caused"
 real 28k

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"Officers discovered a suspicious looking bag"
 real 28k

Met Police spokesman
"Huge disruption to central London"
 real 28k

The BBC's Christine Stewart
"It was serious enough for them to take emergency action"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Ahern: Dissidents 'still pose threat'
Police on security alert in Ealing after discovery of a bomb
Police on security alert in Ealing after discovery of a bomb
Bomb alerts in London serve to warn that the "evil ways" of paramilitary splinter groups still pose a threat to the Northern Ireland peace process, the Irish prime minister has said.

Bertie Ahern was speaking after police carried out two controlled explosions on a bomb and a suspect package in central London.

The alerts caused commuter chaos for much of Wednesday.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said the bomb could be the work of dissident republicans opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.

Several coded warnings were given to a number of media outlets based in the Irish capital, Dublin. It was the same codeword which was used in an attack on the railway line between Dublin and Belfast last month.

Mr Ahern referred to anti-terrorist legislation which was passed after one dissident republican group, the Real IRA, planted a bomb in Omagh, County Tyrone, in August 1998, which killed 29 people.

He said this legislation could be used to crack down on dissident republican groups.

Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern: Groups still "pose threat"
"I think we have to be conscious of the legalisation that we have and use it when necessary," he said.

"We have to take these individuals very seriously. I have always held that view."

He said the bomb alerts were an attempt to undermine an important occasion in Britain - the birthday pageant for the Queen Mother.

"It goes away from the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and the will that has been freely expressed in the elections of 1998 both north and south.

"This again shows that their evil ways are still very much to the forefront."

Mr Ahern stressed there had been a lot of concern about dissident republican groups in recent months.

"The garda (Irish Police) have had quite a lot of success against them and we've been using considerable resources in our operations to thwart their actions. We've been putting an awful lot of effort in."

Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble, speaking in the Commons, asked if the emergency legislation passed after the Omagh bombing had been used yet.

David Trimble
David Trimble: Commons question
"Will it be used? Will the secretary of state press the Irish government to use the equivalent legislation on its side of the border?

"The Irish prime minister has given assurance after assurance, that the law in the republic will be used against dissident republicans. When is that going to happen?"

Mr Mandelson said the legislation would be used "in circumstances where the police and the prosecuting authorities believe it is possible and desirable" to use it.

He added: "Combatting dissident republicans depends on very close co-operation between ourselves and the Irish government. That co-operation is proceeding."

Suspected members

North Belfast Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said if the controlled explosions had been initiated by the planting of bombs then "clearly this was carried out by opponents of the peace process".

"The only effective counter to such activities is to demonstrate clearly and unambiguously that politics work," he said.

Irish police have detained a number of suspected members of the Real IRA in the past few months.

They also seized quantities of Semtex and other bomb-making equipment in raids on homes close to the Northern Ireland border.

But Mr Ahern said that despite the efforts, this latest incident showed that there were still people determined to ruin the work of everybody involved in the peace process.

Membership of dissident republican groups is understood to have grown since the recent IRA statement that it would put arms "beyond use", which many took to be surrendering to the British.

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See also:

19 Jul 00 | UK
Eyewitness: Commuter chaos
02 Jun 00 | UK
Police hunt bridge bombers
11 Apr 00 | London Mayor
Light at the end of the tunnel?
19 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Dissident republicans: Threat to peace
30 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Dissidents linked to railway blast
19 Jul 00 | UK
Bomb scares hit capital
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