By Sharon O’Neill
An investigation by UTV’s Up Close programme into the activities of the Royal Marine turned dissident bombmaker Ciaran Maxwell has uncovered the existence of a new terror group.
Police and the security services have confirmed they are investigating this new threat.
At his sentencing hearing the Old Bailey in London was told Ciaran Maxwell, a member of the elite 40 Commando, was building bombs for the Continuity IRA.
It’s one of a number of dissident groups, the biggest the one styling itself the New IRA.
Although not linked directly to the Maxwell case, the programme team also learned of another faction that has emerged operating under the name of Arm na Poblachta, translated republican army.
Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin says the PSNI and MI5 are investigating this new threat to peace.
He said: “Violent dissident republican groupings are fluid and change regularly for a number of reasons.
"Firstly, the investigative effort of PSNI and MI5 has disrupted the activity of people and groupings who want to commit acts of terror in our community.
"Secondly, there is a desire for power amongst the individuals involved and this leads to fall outs and fractious relationships.
We are aware of a small, relatively new, violent dissident republican group which is operating under the name Arm na Poblachta.
"It is currently being investigated by PSNI and MI5 who will continue to work together to identify and bring before the courts, people who are involved in criminal behaviour that causes terror in our community.”
In a separate development, Up Close also spoke to the parents of Ciaran Maxwell.
The 31-year-old was handed a 23-year sentence for stockpiling weaponry in multiple hides near his marine camp in England and family home in Larne.
His double life lasted more than five years and during most of his time in the military.
As well as building bombs, sourcing parts for various other deadly devices, Maxwell was also gathering intelligence.
Police found information on more than 300 targets connected to the police, military, and judiciary.
The former Marine’s parents Teresa and John released this statement to Up Close condemning the actions of their son.
They said: “We utterly condemn what Ciaran has done. We are in deep shock and cannot comprehend it.
We have only known Ciaran as a loving son and a loving father who had a very bright future ahead of him. This makes what he did so difficult to understand.
"We fully supported his decision to join the Royal Marines and were so proud when he achieved it.
"From an early age Ciaran was taught the difference between right and wrong and he crossed the line. The extent of his criminality is devastating and horrifying.
"We were completely in the dark about what Ciaran was doing and still ask ourselves why.
"Ciaran is our son but he is responsible for his own actions and he has been held accountable.”