Dissident republican groups may try to mount terrorist attacks on the British mainland, the independent reviewer of the counter-terrorism laws has warned.
Alex Carlile said there was a “paramount need for continuous vigilance” in the North following a series of terrorist incidents over recent months.
“The number of terrorism incidents in Northern Ireland has increased, as has the evidence of the existence of determined and dangerous groups of dissident republicans with the ability to manufacture and deploy lethal explosive devices,” he said in his report on the working of the terror laws in 2009.
“Their main targets to date appear to be the police and armed services. Unfortunately, one cannot possibly exclude the possibility of dissident paramilitaries mounting terrorist attacks in Great Britain.”
Incidents so far this year have included a car bomb attack in April on the Army base which houses MI5’s headquarters in the North. The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the attack.
The group is one of two main dissident republican groups, along with the Continuity IRA, opposed to the peace settlement in the North which has seen the establishment of the power-sharing assembly at Stormont.
Overall, Mr Carlile said he was “optimistic” for the future of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland and he praised the willingness of the political parties to overcome their differences and to work together.
However he said he remained “pessimistic” about the continuing threat of international terrorism violent Islamic jihadists.
“As the director-general of the Security Service (MI5) and others have made clear, complacency founded upon the recent absence of fatal terrorist attacks would be misplaced and unwise.”
There was, he said, increasing evidence of terrorism being planned on a “wider international front” than in the past.
“Somalia and Bangladesh are worrying examples of countries in relation to which UK resident participants may be preparing acts of terrorism, and from which terrorism against the UK and UK assets may emerge,” he said.