Dissident republicans are “living in a fools’ paradise” if they think they can re-unite Ireland by violence, Martin McGuinness insisted yesterday as police were on high alert to stop another terrorist outrage following the discovery of a second cache of bomb-making equipment.
Addressing a traditional republican commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising, the Sinn Fein figurehead said the action of the renegades was “futile, stupid and selfish”.
Claiming the countdown was on to a united Ireland, Stormont’s Deputy First Minister told crowds at Loup, Co Derry, that it had to be achieved peacefully and democratically and with unionist support.
Mr McGuinness’s comments came on a day police were on high alert across Northern Ireland amid fears of a dissident terror attack to mark traditional republican Easter commemorations.
Increased patrol and check points were mounted in a bid to thwart any act of violence. The ongoing operation over the Easter weekend came amid a number of significant seizures by officers investigating dissident republican activities.
A large quantity of suspected bomb making equipment was recovered in south Armagh on Saturday – a find which came 24 hours after officers discovered a weapons cache in a vehicle they stopped in the same county.
Three men were arrested in relation to the guns and ammunition haul found in Keady, near the Irish border. There were no further arrests during the searches yesterday which uncovered the suspect bomb making material.
Three weeks after the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh, police have warned that terrorist groups could be intent on trying to kill more officers in the coming days and weeks.
A 33-year-old man arrested by detectives investigating the policeman’s murder appeared in court in Dungannon on Saturday on a series of arms and explosive charges.
A police spokesman said: “Dissident terrorist groups are continuing to identify officers and target them with the single objective of killing them. And in so doing, their reckless actions will also put the lives of our wider communities at risk.”
Police urged members of the public to be on their guard with a spokesman adding: “We are taking these steps to keep communities and officers safe. We would not do this unless it was not absolutely necessary to protect life.”
The men detained in Keady, who remain in custody, were arrested as part of an operation supported by police in the Republic of Ireland.
Mr McGuinness rejected claims from extremists they were the true IRA and claimed the IRA that existed during the Troubles was not a warmongerer.
“They were a revolutionary force who when an opportunity to advance the struggle for Irish unity through peaceful means was established it removed itself from the political equation,” he said.
“The IRA by its nature was of the people and for the people. It could not have survived and fought the British state the way it did if it was small and unrepresentative.
“People should be under no illusion, the small factions currently engaging in armed actions are not the IRA and they are not advancing national and democratic objectives by their activities.”
He added: “Irish people are united in support of the Good Friday, St Andrews and Hillsborough agreements, attempting to overturn the will of the Irish people is not only futile it is stupid and selfish.
“Ireland can now only be reunited by the further development and outworking of the power sharing and all-Ireland institutions which were endorsed by the Irish people in the referendum in 1998. No act of violence will advance the cause of reunification by one millimetre.
“It is patently not possible to advance towards Irish reunification by any means other than peaceful and democratic processes. Those who believe that Ireland can be reunited without the support of the Irish people are living in a fools’ paradise.”