The dissident Irish republican group known as the New IRA has claimed credit for putting an explosive device found under the car of a police officer parked at an East Belfast golf club earlier this month, according to a statement sent to an Irish newspaper.
Using a recognized codeword, the statement to the Irish News said, “The IRA claims responsibility for the recent under car booby trap,” the newspaper reported on Friday, June 7.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said on June 1 that a “viable bomb” was found under an off-duty PSNI officer’s car at Shandon Park Golf Club close to police headquarters, around three miles east of the city center.
The device contained a mercury tilt switch, which is typically motion activated, the Irish News reported.
“We are confident the device would have exploded if it was not for the level terrain it had traveled on,” the newspaper reported the New IRA statement as saying.
Around 70 people were on the golf course and at least 50 were in the clubhouse when the device was discovered, the BBC reported at the time.
Police had said they believed dissident republicans were responsible for planting the device. Two cars investigators had said were linked to the incident were found burned out in North Belfast on Saturday.
The New IRA is the largest dissident Irish republican paramilitary group, formed in 2012 after a merger of several smaller groups with the Real IRA.
Under-car bomb attacks are rare in Northern Ireland. The New IRA has used what the PSNI describes as under-vehicle improvised explosive devices (UVIEDs) in recent years to target British soldiers, police officers and prison officers in Belfast and Derry.
In February 2017, the New IRA said it was responsible for a bomb that exploded in the driveway of a PSNI officer’s home. The PSNI said that bomb was of a new design and used an “anti-handling device.”
A year earlier, prison officer Adrian Ismay died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van in Belfast. The New IRA also claimed responsibility for that bombing.
Using a recognized codeword, the New IRA on April 23 admitted shooting to death journalist Lyra McKee during rioting in the northwestern city of Derry. McKee was shot on April 18 by an unknown gunman who was firing at police in the Creggan area of Derry, also known as Londonderry. She later died from her injuries in hospital.
In January, a car bomb exploded outside a courthouse in Derry, an attack also blamed on the New IRA.
Since then, a number of weapons caches have been uncovered in the southeast of Northern Ireland and just across the border in Ireland.
Dissident Irish republicans have also taken credit for a series of explosive devices sent to Great Britain in March, with the New IRA claiming they sent four mail bombs that were recovered in London and Glasgow. A fifth “viable device” was discovered at the National Returns Letter Centre in Limerick after it had been returned by the postal service from the United Kingdom.
The 1998 Good Friday or Belfast Agreement ended what is known as The Troubles, three decades of violence in Northern Ireland beginning in the late 1960s in which more than 3,500 people were killed, the majority by predominantly Catholic Irish republicans who want the reunification of Ireland, but also by mainly Protestant loyalists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, as well as the security forces.
The violence also spilled over into Ireland, the United Kingdom mainland, and Europe.
The Irish Republican Army called a final ceasefire in 1997 and announced an end to its armed campaign in 2005, stating that it would seek to achieve its aims through peaceful political means, but various dissident Irish republican groups opposed to the peace process have continued to use the name IRA, and there have been sporadic violent incidents since.
Police in Northern Ireland and Ireland have said that a return to a hard border on the island after Brexit could result in an increase in attacks by militant groups.