Tory conference is bomb target for dissidents, warns MP

AN upcoming conference of the British Conservative Party is being targeted by dissident republicans for a bomb attack, a Tory MP has warned.

Patrick Mercer, a former army officer and ex-chairman of a House of Commons sub-committee on counter-terrorism, claimed he has received information from security sources in Northern Ireland that IRA splinter groups are considering mounting some form of terrorist attack on the party’s conference in Birmingham in October.

“One of the aspirations undoubtedly is to attack the Tory party conference,” said the MP.

“There are doubts over whether they have the capability, but the aspiration is certainly there,” said Mr Mercer, who urged British police to treat the threat seriously.

Mr Mercer, an MP based in Nottinghamshire, said republican groups opposed to the peace process were planning to do something “to catapult themselves into the headlines” by attacking targets in Britain.

Mr Mercer, who served most of his military career in Northern Ireland, claimed his intelligence was based on information from former colleagues in the defence and police forces.

Details of the intelligence gathered in the North in recent weeks has raised fears that Irish paramilitary groups are planning a repeat of the bomb attack on the party’s conference in Brighton in 1984 in which five people were killed and another 34 injured.

The then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher – the target of the IRA explosion – narrowly escaped death when the explosion went off at the Grand Hotel in Brighton.

Sources have stated the Conservatives’ conference in Birmingham in October has been placed as the prime target in a hit list of potential hits drawn up by republican paramilitaries who have been behind a string of bomb attacks in the North this year.

They include a number of attempts to kill officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland by placing booby-trap bombs under their vehicles, as well as a 20lb blast outside a PSNI station in Derry.

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