IRA statement adds to the expectation of further attacks

 

AS TIGHTER security measures took shape in the North. particularly in Belfast, yesterday, the expectation of further IRA attacks has been strengthened by a New Year message which restated the organisation's objectives.

In the message published today in the republican newspaper, An Phoblacht, the IRA declared its primary objective remained the unification of Ireland but indicated its continuing support for efforts to advance a settlement process.

Meanwhile, the IRA also admitted responsibility for an attack on RUC vehicles in Derry on Tuesday night. After extensive forensic examination of the area in Shantallow, the RUC confirmed that a horizontal mortar had been fired at two passing police vehicles, causing no casualties.

New vehicle checkpoints and intensified foot patrols by British army and RUC personnel were set up yesterday in Belfast following a review of security. The measures were constantly under review and would be stepped up as necessary, the Security Minister, Sir John Wheeler, said.

Crowds were much reduced in shopping areas, following the IRA rocket attack on a security post outside the High Courts on Monday and subsequent bomb scares and security alerts that paralysed traffic on Tuesday.

Commercial representatives expressed concern that public confidence was again being seriously eroded. There would be a sharp impact on public expenditure, they warned.

Mr Bill Tosh, the chairman off the Confederation of British Industry in the North, said: "We cannot talk about developing our economy, about resolving social needs, about developing cohesion in our community, if in fact bombing and shooting and such brinkmanship as we saw yesterday prevail in our city."

In a further full scale alert yesterday, 500 pupils were evacuated from St Mary's Girls Primary School in Strabane, Co Tyrone, as security forces investigated a suspicious rubbish bin outside and carried out a controlled explosion.

Five Ulster Unionist Party members of the Northern Ireland Forum, representing the four constituencies of North, South, East and West Belfast, are to meet the RUC Assistant Chief Constable for the Belfast Region, Mr Bill Stewart, tomorrow, to discuss their concerns about what they perceive as the deteriorating security situation in the city.

In a BBC interview following, the Derry incident, Mr Mark Durkan of the SDLP questioned the motivation for the attack and said: "The IRA don't need to prove or show their capacity for violence. All of us are too well and too bloodily aware of that. What republicans do need to prove is whether or not they have the capacity for peace.

The deputy leader of the Alliance Party, Mr Seamus Close, called on politicians to get down to real talks next Monday and seek an agreed settlement.

"Six months have been wasted by procrastination and silly theatricals," he said. "Stupid squabbling in the so called unionist family has resulted in no real progress being made." The electorate might shun elected leaders if they continued to demonstrate political cowardice, he warned.

Today's IRA statement indicates no intended lessening of its armed campaign or cessation renewal in present conditions. However, it seemed to signal that two options were still available.

The organisation would "face up to our responsibilities", it said, "either in the direct pursuit of our objectives or in assisting in the development of the conditions necessary for the establishment of a meaningful process with the potential for securing a lasting settlement to the conflict in Ireland."