Northern Ireland police face fresh wave of attacks in wake of Newry car bombing

There is more evidence that dissidents are stepping up their attempts to ruin the Hillsborough Agreement, following the Newry car bomb last week.

Less than a week after Left Foot Forward reported on the attack by dissident republicans outside a court house on Newry, there is more evidence that dissidents are stepping up their attempts to ruin the Hillsborough Agreement, which sets out a timetable for the devolution of policing and justice powers.

In the latest round of violence, blamed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland on dissident Republicans:

• On Saturday a hoax device was used to lure police officers into an area of Craigavon in County Armagh where they faced sustained attacks from flagstones and other missiles, in what police said was an attempt to injure or kill a police officer. Three police vehicles were damaged, and officers fired three baton rounds in self defence;
• A mortar bomb was fired at a police barracks in the Brownlow area of Craigavon, although it missed its intended target; and
• Police faced sustained attacks from petrol bombs in Dunmurry on the outskirts of Belfast.

The events come on top of the Real IRA admitting responsibility for the murder of suspected MI5 informer Ciaran Doherty near Derry.

Responding to the attacks, Sinn Fein MLA for Upper Bann John O’Dowd said:

“This attack was wrong and should not have been carried out.

“I would challenge those who claim to speak politically for these factions to tell the republican and nationalist community exactly how these sorts of activities, or indeed the recent murder in Derry advance the cause of a united Ireland one iota.”

DUP MP for Upper Bann, David Simpson said:

“It is certainly very reckless coming on the back of what’s happened in Keady (in south Armagh) and Newry.”

For the SDLP, one of its local MLAs, Dolores Kelly, commented:

“Republican dissidents seem to be upping their game and becoming more emboldened by recent events.”

The attacks on the police come after Alliance party leader, David Ford, agreed to put his name forward for the post of justice minister, and ahead of a vote in the assembly due on March 9th on transferring policing and justice powers.

Whilst the attacks serve as a reminder of the threat to the peace process posed by dissidents who refuse to disarm, such attacks could prove to strengthen the resolve of Northern Ireland’s political leaders. As the Irish Times’ Northern news editor Dan Keenan concludes:

“Relations between the DUP and Sinn Féin in the Stormont Executive have been openly difficult since devolution was restored in 2007. But the threat both parties face from the dissidents at this most politically sensitive time has emerged as a powerful incentive for them to make common cause.”

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