An English newspaper has claimed that the contents of a Semtex bomb used to attack and kill a prison officer in Belfast earlier this month was sourced from an decommissioned Provisional IRA arms dump in Co Cavan - a claim described as “deeply disturbing” by local Deputy Brendan Smith (FF).
A report in the Guardian newspaper at the weekend claimed the explosive used in the bomb that fatally injured Adrian Ismay, a 52-year-old married father-of-three, was taken from an arms dump kept and hidden from the republican movement by a former high-ranking IRA figure.
The secret arms hide, it was said, had been created by the Provisionals’ former quarter master general just before the historic IRA split in 1997.
The newspaper claimed dissidents had recently discovered the bomb-making material “and took a large amount of Semtex from the dump, which is in County Cavan in the Irish Republic. The explosives cache was split with units of another republican faction, the New IRA,” the Guardian article stated.
Mr Ismay was injured when a bomb exploded under his van in east Belfast on March 4. He was driving to work from his home on Hillsborough Drive when police believe the device fell off and partly detonated as the vehicle went over a speed bump.
A group calling itself the New IRA claimed responsibility for a the contents of the Semtex bomb attack.
In a statement to the BBC the dissident republican group reportedly stated that the officer was targeted because he was involved in training other guards at HMP Maghaberry, near Lisburn.
A dissident spokesperson said the officer was one of a number on a list of “potential targets”, and the attack arose from a dispute over the treatment of dissident Republican inmates.
The Provisional IRA’s claim to have decommissioned and put “beyond use” all their weapons, including an estimated 2.5 tons of Semtex, was met with almost universal approval in 2005.
'Despicable act’ - Smith
Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Brendan Smith has condemned the car bomb attack on a prisoner officer as a “despicable act”, adding that the Guardian report is “deeply disturbing” and “a source of major concern”.
He told the Celt yesterday (Tuesday): “We all understood that the decommissioning process had put the weapons held by paramilitary groups beyond use. If a small number of criminal gangs have obtained some of those weapons then An Garda Siochána must be given the necessary resources to deal in the most effective way possible to rid society of this criminality.
“We are all very aware of the terrible loss of life over the years due to the desperate actions of paramilitary groups and the reported emergence of new groups is a cause of concern. Our State services must have the full support of society in dealing with paramilitary and criminal gangs.”
Remarking on the attack on Adrian Ismay, Deputy Smith said that it underscores that individuals and groups still exist who seek to destabilise the peace process. “Public representatives and political parties both North and South of the Border need to redouble and renew their efforts to ensure that those who seek to undermine the peace secured in Northern Ireland do not gain traction.”
However, there is growing concern after indications that the AK assault rifles used by the killers of David Byrne in the terrifying Regency Hotel attack, also probably came from one of the so-called recommissioned dumps.
Gardaí carried out raids along the Border last year but did not recover any substantial amounts of the missing Semtex.