April 18, 2011 — -- Forty significant terror attacks against national security targets, including bomb blasts and shootings. More than 130 attempted bombings and 200 other incidents involving shootings, sectarian violence and threats against the police and the military.
That was Northern Ireland in 2010, not 1970.
That was the work of splinter Irish Revolutionary Army groups. It took place even as Gerry Adams, , leader of the political party associated with the old Provisional IRA, Sinn Fein, held elective office in Northern Ireland. Even as Martin McGuinness, once a military leader of the "Provos," sat as the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.
With national and international attention focused on Al Qaeda, little has been written or broadcast in the U.S. about the re-emergence of Irish terror, but IRA splinter groups that reject the peace process are intent on a renewed campaign of violence. Irish Republican violence has reached levels not often seen since the Troubles, a 30-year era of sectarian strife that ended with the "Good Friday" peace agreement of 1998.
British authorities admit they underestimated the Irish. As recently as 2007, they had viewed the terror groups as a violent handful with little to no political support. "At that point," said Jonathan Evans, director general of MI5, Britain's counterintelligence service, in a 2010 report, "our working assumption was that the residual threat from terrorism in Northern Ireland was low and likely to decline further as time went on and as the new constitutional arrangements there took root."
"Sadly, that has not proved to be the case," said Evans. "On the contrary, we have seen a persistent rise in terrorist activity and ambition in Northern Ireland over the last three years."
Today, multiple British political, intelligence and law enforcement sources tell ABC News, there are about 600 members of the Real Irish Republican Army, the Continuity Irish Republican Army and other emerging splinter groups.
The threat from these newly invigorated groups led British authorities to raise the threat level from Irish-related terrorism in the U.K. from moderate to substantial.
In one instance, the charge placed inside a large fertilizer-based bomb had a powder so pure it could only have been derived from Semtex of the kind that came out of Libya in the 1980s. Indications are that it came from a stash that had been put aside by the Provisional IRA before the process of disarmament that was supposed to lead to a lasting peace.