A police chief has warned that deadlock over Stormont and Brexit is enabling terrorism in Northern Ireland after a bomb attack in County Fermanagh on Monday intended to kill security forces
The device exploded at 10.35am in Newtownbutler — a few kilometres away from the border with the Republic of Ireland — and followed a tip-off to lure officers "into the area to murder them," police said.
There were no reported casualties, but it was at least the sixth attack this year aimed at killing police, soldiers or prison officers. He said republican terrorists in the Continuity IRA or New IRA were the suspected culprits.
"We shouldn’t take our peace for granted," PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin told reporters.
He said that wider issues, including ongoing deadlock in Northern Ireland's government and the still-unresolved Brexit border issue, had led to the peace process "slipping back."
"I have nothing at directly link this attack to the EU exit debate," Martin said, "[but] we’ve had 2.5 years of no devolved institutions. We’ve had tensions on the ground in communities this year around bonfires. We have the uncertainty around EU exit. We’ve had five attempted attacks to murder police officers this year ... one of those attacks tragically killed Lyra McKee.
"When you add all that up I do believe that there is a time of reflection and a time to question of what kind of society we want to live in here.
"These terrorists have spoken. In response, the police service will continue to do its job … today, tomorrow and the next day."
He continued: "We now need action. We now need as a society, led by our politicians, to absolutely set out not just our condemnation to these people but to work collectively together – police playing a part but police on their own not being sufficient — to say ‘you do not represent the type of society we want to live in’ and to reclaim the prosperity that I think we all felt a number of years ago.
"Many of us … sense that things are becoming more entrenched and that progress is maybe slipping back a bit."
Earlier, Chief Constable Simon Byrne called the latest attack "sinister."
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney also condemned the act.
Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, blamed "republican terrorists" for the bomb.
"It's time they left the stage and allowed everyone to move on. This was a clear attempt to kill," she wrote on Twitter.
Julian Smith, Britain's new Northern Ireland Secretary, said: "I commend the bravery of police and others working to keep us safe."
Sinn Fein also condemned the blast with MP Michelle Gildernew describing it as "totally wrong."
"Those responsible for this incident have nothing to offer society and need to end these actions immediately," she added.