DISSIDENT republican groups were boosted by worldwide media coverage of last year's murders of two soldiers and a PSNI officer, a leading academic has said.
Professor Adrian Guelke of Queen’s University Belfast said the huge publicity they received following the murders of the soldiers at Massereene and the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon had boosted their numbers and their ‘credibility’.
The professor of comparative politics said: “I think part of the difficulty is the publicity they received after March 2009 and the effect it had at that time.”
Professor Guelke said that while most of the publicity was negative it went world wide and it gave the impression to the world that ‘all was not right’ in Northern Ireland.
“It also added credibility to those groups and the people who support them.
“They benefited from what Margaret Thatcher once described as the ‘oxygen of publicity’,” he said
The professor said that it was important all the political parties remained united in their condemnation of the dissident groups.
He said it had been extremely important that Sinn Fein had been vocal in their criticism of these groups. Mr Guelke said it was important that the dissidents did not drive a wedge between the political parties as this would further encourage them.
“I think they got a boost at the huge amount of coverage last March. They were able to recruit a lot more people.
“The security forces were worried about the number of people they had been able to recruit and we are seeing the fruits of that this summer,” he said, adding that there was ‘no substantial’ political support for the dissidents.