Northern Ireland police warn of dissident IRA threat to disrupt British election with violence

Friday, April 30, 2010

Belfast cops warn of dissident IRA election attack

DUBLIN — Northern Ireland police warned Friday that Irish Republican Army dissidents hope to overshadow the British election in the province with violence.

Northern Ireland deputy police commander Judith Gillespie said officers would mount extra foot patrols and road checkpoints leading up to the May 6 vote amid signs dissident bombers might target polling stations, government buildings or economic centers.

“We are very alive to this possibility,” she said at Belfast police headquarters.

Hours after she spoke, British Army experts dismantled a pipe bomb that had been abandoned in a hedge in an area divided between rival British Protestant and Irish Catholic districts of north Belfast. No group claimed responsibility.

Also, a road that runs past Belfast’s two main courthouses is being sealed off to traffic because of concerns that IRA dissidents could use it to plant a car bomb.

Splinter groups opposed to the IRA’s 1997 cease-fire and the Catholic-Protestant government it inspired have detonated three car bombs this year, including two this month. The blasts have caused little damage and no serious casualties, but illustrate the dissidents’ growing bomb-making ability.

Gillespie said the dissidents appeared most determined to kill police officers, but also hoped to mount any attack tied to the vote.

“Obviously, with the election coming up, it is quite possible they will seek to maximize the impact of an attack in the run-up to that election,” Gillespie said.

Northern Ireland has 18 seats in London’s House of Commons.

The British election in Northern Ireland in 2001 was marred by a drive-by shooting outside a polling station that wounded two policemen and a voter.

Most IRA members renounced violence and disarmed in 2005 as part of a wider deal that propelled the IRA’s Sinn Fein party into a power-sharing government alongside the Protestant majority. The dissidents reject power-sharing because they continue to seek Northern Ireland’s abolition as a part of the United Kingdom.

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