Dissident list circulated to PSNI

THE list of republican dissidents under surveillance in Belfast has grown three-fold in the last eight weeks.

Over 200 dissidents are said to be under observation across Northern Ireland.

The revelations comes following failed dissident republican attacks on police at the weekend.

Police foiled an alleged attack on a PSNI officer in Garrison, Co Fermanagh and a 400lb bomb partially exploded outside the headquarters of the Policing Board in Belfast.

An internal PSNI email containing photo-fits and names of senior dissident republicans warned police officers in north and west Belfast of the "main players" to look out for on their patches.

The PSNI email, containing details of more than 30 RIRA and CIRA members including a woman and a former hunger striker, was sent to officers in A district in Belfast – York Road, Antrim Road, North Queen Street, Woodburn, Grosvenor Road and New Barnsley police stations.

The list includes the dissident leaders in Fermanagh, west Belfast and a former member of the IRA army council.

As well as their photographs, the information on the dissidents includes their addresses and car details. Officers who spot them in the area are asked to log where and when they saw them.

But this is believed to be "only the tip of the iceberg" with a list of more than 200 dissidents now circulating in all districts throughout the Province.

The officer, who made the revelation to the News Letter, said although there has been a list of around 10 suspected dissidents in circulation to officers for months, the numbers have swelled to more than 30 in the last eight weeks.

He added that the majority of men – and one woman – on the list are in their 40s.

"Nothing about the real threat on the ground comes out to the public, but the reality is that it is very, very high," he said.

"No officer can come into A district without ballistic body armour and without clearance.

"The main dissident players are casting their nets wider and wider where they can operate without being known by police. That is why police in the areas need photographs."

Ballistic body armour has now been worn in the west of the city for more than a year.

"When the mail came out a lot of us recognised the names, and out of the 30-plus there were no teenagers. The youngest was around 30 and the oldest near pension age.

"These suspected dissidents are mainly mature men from all walks of life. Quite a few of the men are in their late 30s and 40s," he said.

"And some of them are old-hands from the IRA, including a few who we know have experience of undercar booby-trap bombs.

"But what is happening in north and west Belfast is just the same as what police are going through in Lurgan, Armagh and Fermanagh.

"What is now happening is taking us back 15 years, as a lot of us recognise the same names as we had on the IRA threat list.

"It seems that within the PSNI any information about dissidents is almost kept on a need-to-know basis, and even kept from police on the ground. It is trying times for everyone.”

In a recent briefing, officers in A district were asked to be aware that dissidents were also starting to use the “honey-trap” ploy in the south Down area and officers were asked to be wary when socialising in Bangor, Donaghadee and nearby towns.

The majority of names on the list, passed to the News Letter, are not from the Belfast area, “but are known to be circulating there”.

A PSNI spokesman said: “We do not discuss intelligence matters.”

But a spokesman for the Police Federation said they were aware that briefing papers had been issued, which included the names of men who were dissident republicans and members of the INLA.

“We are alarmed about the increased threat and it remains a matter of major concern to the federation.”

Mid-Ulster MLA Billy Armstrong urged the police to be given free rein to combat the terrorist threat by any means necessary.

The UUP representative said: “The recent attempt to murder police officers via a horizontal mortar type device at the Friary Road in Armagh is further proof that republican murder gangs are back on the loose. If history tells us anything, it is that appeasement does not work when dealing with thugs and bullies. We have come too far to allow a few terrorists to drag us back to the horrors of the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.”