UK & World News

  • 27 December 2013, 8:00

Northern Ireland Dealing With Daily Bomb Threat

Fifteen years after the Good Friday Agreement, the Army's bomb disposal officers in Northern Ireland are still dealing with more than one incident a day.

The senior police officer in charge of their deployment says he cannot afford to be complacent about the "severe" threat posed by dissident republican terrorists.

In an exclusive interview for Sky News, Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said: "Undoubtedly some of the devices show a degree of sophistication.

"I'd point towards the recent vehicle-borne bomb in the centre of Belfast, but also the attempt to murder a retired police officer. Now, those were sophisticated devices.

"Other devices are rudimentary in their construction, but equally as dangerous and life-threatening and that's why we need expert assistance and advice in dealing with these incidents."

Deborah McAleese, Crime Correspondent with the Belfast Telegraph, explained: "The dissidents believe that Northern Ireland is a failed state and that the only way to eradicate it is to keep Northern Ireland in a perpetual state of emergency.

"So they would like to bring Northern Ireland back to the 1970s and 80s where you had the Army on the streets and there was open warfare between themselves and loyalist groups."

The unit known as "the bomb squad" was first deployed in the 1970s and 23 bomb disposal specialists were killed in action during "The Troubles".

321 EOD (Explosives Ordinance Disposal)is the British Army's most decorated unit in peacetime with 200 awards, many for acts of bravery in Northern Ireland.

ACC Harris added: "In the middle part of the last decade, particularly the period from 2002 to 2007, we really thought we were closing a chapter and it was shocking then, the upsurge in terrorism and the murders that were associated with that.

"And now, just this continuing steady beat of attacks and threat that is directed towards police officers and other members of society. It is surprising, indeed shocking, and very saddening in lots of ways."

There is no indication that Northern Ireland is sliding back towards the atrocities of the past, but bomb alerts reflect continuing strife in republican ranks.