“Derry is a city moving forward, and no one wants this type of incident,” said Elisha McCallion, a Sinn Fein member of Parliament from the area. “It is not representative of the city. I would encourage anyone with information about this incident to bring it to the police.”
The Provisional I.R.A. was the largest and most active armed nationalist faction during the Troubles. From 1968 to 1998, more than 3,500 people died in bombings and gun attacks linked to deep divisions between the predominantly Protestant unionists who supported Northern Ireland’s belonging to the United Kingdom and the mostly Roman Catholic nationalists who favored a united Republic of Ireland.
The Provisional I.R.A. formally stood down after the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998, but a number of splinter groups refused to recognize the accord and have continued to organize attacks on local rivals and on security forces, killing two British soldiers, two Northern Ireland police officers and two prison officers over the past 20 years.
Republican dissidents were blamed for an increase in unrest and rioting in the Bogside area of Derry City (which unionists prefer to call Londonderry) last summer, in which the police and motorists were attacked with rocks and sometimes gasoline bombs.
Declan Power, a Dublin-based security expert and lecturer, said that sporadic and usually localized violence could be seen as an attempt by splinter groups to recruit young followers and maintain an appearance of political relevance.
“Dissident groups like the Real I.R.A. and the Continuity I.R.A. are active but not in a strategic direction,” he said. “Most of their activity is related to holding turf for organized criminal activities like drug dealing, and directed at feuding with rivals.”
“Every now and then there is an attempt to do something like this,” he said of the bomb Saturday night, “to retain their credibility as serious republican revolutionary movements.”
Such violence is now receiving more attention than before, he said, because of fears that Britain’s likely exit from the European Union could lead to the reintroduction of a hard border between Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland, disrupting the constitutional arrangements that underpin the Good Friday agreement.