The British Government deliberately overplayed the threat of a dissident IRA attack on London ahead of the Olympics, according to a leading security source.
The source, on the frontline of counter-terrorism for over 30 years, told The Irish Post that British intelligence services know dissident Republicans are incapable of mounting attacks on mainland Britain, but deliberately over-rated their capabilities in a series of official leaks ahead of London 2012.
The move was intended to create a heightened sense of public awareness during the Games, and follows similar erroneous leaks to leading British daily’s in 2011 – then refuted by The Irish Post.
“There was absolutely no risk because of the limited access these people have to munitions, money, safe houses, volunteers, secrecy,” said the source. “There is no basis whatsoever to support that theory. It appears to be a propaganda exercise by the security services.”
The source said British and Irish security agencies enjoy close working relationships in terms of gathering and sharing intelligence and the move to leak an official line would have been met with surprise in Ireland.
“There are a significant number of security units monitoring these groups,” he said: “There is supposed to be an amalgamation of some of these strands but there isn’t hundreds involved in operations. There is a very limited number involved in munitions, it is clear they have not be able to acquire access to munitions abroad and that situation is unchanged.
The source added:
“It was known when the decommissioning of weapons occurred that you were not going to be able to account for all weapons, but the vast majority was destroyed.
“On top of that, their operatives are of limited capability. Fund raising has been an issue and there are leaks within the groups at different levels. They realise themselves that these are limiting factors.”
However, the source warned: “There is no doubt that they will attempt to kill a policeman in Belfast or in Derry or in Tyrone, within the areas where they can operate with success but the fact remains, there has been no activity by these groups for several years in Britain and there is no imminent risk.
The source also stated that the policy of leaking this line plays into the hands of far right organisations with anti-Irish agendas.
“There is no doubt it has the potential to be a contributing factor to anti-Irishness and would be picked up on by right wing groups.
“Official leaks to alert people and can sometimes have derogatory aspects for the 99.99 per cent of Irish community resident in Britain.”