THE head of the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch has questioned the credibility of dissident Republicans behind recent security alerts in Fermanagh.

Since the start of 2021, there have been claims from the Continuity IRA (CIRA) that they have shot at a police helicopter, and more recently, at Enniskillen Police Station.

However, Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, has dismissed these claims, and while he admits that CIRA are a "potentially lethal organisation", he feels it requires a more "discerning eye" to look at the recent events which the group have claimed responsibility for.

"We're in no way complacent, but actually, some of these attacks – and the way that they are putting them across – I think, are a very, very cynical, manipulative attempt to project a bigger capability than they may really have in the area," explained the Detective Chief Superintendent.

Looking back at the first security alert, in Wattlebridge, in January, the head of the Serious Crime Branch dismissed the claim that shots were fired at a police helicopter.

"They [CIRA] did not fire at a police helicopter; it did not happen. Because as you would expect, we know where the police helicopters are. If they fired at a police helicopter, we'd say they fired at a police helicopter.

"We found a number of rounds. The first thing is, the rounds weren't fired! The bullet head was still in the cartridge, so they had not been fired."

Focusing on the alleged attack at Enniskillen Police Station in March, Detective Chief Superintendent Murray continued: "They didn't fire any high-velocity shots out of that homemade device.

"The item we recovered is not capable of firing high-velocity shots; it is a very crude, rudimentary, improvised gun."

Investigating motivations by dissidents for these incidents, Detective Chief Superintendent Murray said there are a number of possible reasons.

"Are they trying to project, maybe, more power than they actually have? Then the next question you have to say to yourself is, 'Why?'

"They want to look big; they want to look maybe more relevant than they are, or [such actions could be] part of recruitment.

"Are they trying to beguile and manipulate young people, to make themselves seem more potent than they actually are?

"I think those are all motivational aspects that we are looking at," he said.

Looking at the Enniskillen security incident, the initial claim about a device being left near the police station was made on a Monday; however, it was not until Wednesday that Army Technical Officers (ATO) were tasked and an area was cordoned off to search for a suspect device.

When asked was the device missed in initial searches, or why nothing was discovered until Wednesday, Detective Chief Superintendent Murray said: "I think a lot of the time, the information that comes across is vague and incomplete and doesn't help.

"I think something in the back of our mind all the time is, are we being brought [to a false alarm, or a trap]; is this actually, you know, a stunt to bring us in?

"I think if you look at one of [CIRA's] statements – which was the Wattlebridge clearance operation in January – they talk about hoax bomb warning calls.

"They talk about trying to 'draw Crown Forces in', and so we are very cautious around that, and we are always trying to anticipate, you know, what is actually going on here.

"I think that the sequence of events all forms part of the overall investigation, but I don't think it detracts from the recklessness."

Despite the questions about the alerts and what actually happened during them, Detective Chief Superintendent Murray said the PSNI are not complacent when it comes to dealing with these situations and dissident groups.

He added that the disruption and danger they cause to local communities is "disgraceful".

"These people have no idea where they're going with this. If it was something that was part of a grand strategy, you know, they may say, 'Yes, it's all about a United Ireland', but for all the pieces in between, they haven't a clue, they just go out to do this stuff.

"These types of incidents are concerning from a number of angles, such as is somebody going to get harmed, and the disruption to a local community.

"Again, it's that critical eye to consider about what [CIRA] say, the magnitude of the attack, and actually what the reality of the incident is.

"We are fully engaged and trying to stop this activity. The police want to keep people safe.

"We have a tremendous relationship with the people of Fermanagh, and have for many a long year, and I would appeal to anybody with any information about these activities to let us know.

"The sooner that this stuff is behind us, the better," added Detective Chief Superintendent Murray.