FEARS of a new IRA bombing campaign on England’s streets yesterday forced MI5 to raise the terror level from the breakaway republicans to substantial, The Sun reports. The Home Secretary revealed the alarming development to MPs, dubbing an IRA attack on the UK mainland as now “a strong possibility”.
Spy chiefs increased it from moderate, where it has been for four years. Mrs May added: “It reflects the continuing threat from Dissident Republican activity. “As a result of this change, we are working closely with the police and other relevant authorities to ensure appropriate security measures are in place.”
The move sparked immediate speculation on whether an imminent plot had been disrupted. Security officials refused to discuss details behind the warning, saying only that attacks in the province from breakaway IRA splinter groups have been on the rise for several years.
But Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the action meant it was “evident that dissident republicans are now active in Great Britain and are examining potential targets”. While urging the public to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity, Mrs May also insisted the move “should not affect how we go about our daily lives.”
She added: “The reality is that they command little support. “They do not represent the views or wishes of the vast majority of people, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”
The threat level from the IRA is Northern Ireland has already been raised to Severe – meaning an attack is highly likely – after police and prison officers began to be targeted again at home and on the way to work.
Dissident republican groups such as the New IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann have been behind most of the deadly attacks. In March, prison officer Adrian Ismay died when an undercar booby trap bomb detonated as he drove to work.
In 2011, Catholic police recruit Ronan Kerr was also killed when a device exploded under his vehicle while, several months earlier, in November 2012 prison warder David Black was gunned down as he drove along the M1 motorway.
The threat level to the UK from international terror groups such as ISIS remains at the Severe level, which is the second highest level and one higher than Substantial.
MI5 base decisions on threat levels on intelligence on terror groups’ activities, capability, intentions and on how quickly they can act.