Paramilitary style attacks down but bomb attacks rose in 2020

Rebecca Black, PA
·2-min read

The number of paramilitary style attacks in Northern Ireland fell, while bomb attacks increased slightly in a year dominated by the pandemic induced lockdown.

Some 17 bombing incidents were recorded in 2020 – up from 15 in 2019 – and 39 shootings – the same as during 2019.

But other paramilitary activity remained the same or decreased according to figures collated by the Police Service for Northern Ireland.

A high profile bomb plot was uncovered in February, when a device was found attached to a lorry in Co Armagh.

Police said they believe it had been intended by dissident republicans for a Brexit day attack on a ferry on January 31, the date the UK left the EU.

Meanwhile two security-related deaths were recorded – believed to refer to the murder of Glenn Quinn in Carrickfergus by the South East Antrim UDA in January and Kieran Wylie in west Belfast by dissident republicans in May. Two were also recorded in 2019.

Some 13 paramilitary style shootings were recorded, down from 18 in 2019, and 42 paramilitary style assaults, down from 67 in the previous six months.

Most of these shootings (11) were attributed to republicans and two to loyalists, while most of the assaults (48) were attributed to loyalists and 19 to republicans.

Latest police figures on paramilitary style shootings and assaults (NISRA/PA)
Latest police figures on paramilitary style shootings and assaults (NISRA/PA)

One of the victims of the assaults tally was aged under 18.

Most of the bombings, shootings and paramilitary style attacks occurred in Belfast while the Derry city and Strabane council area saw a considerable decrease.

At the same time, the Antrim and Newtownabbey council area saw the largest decrease (from 20 to 2), while Causeway Coast and Glens saw the greatest increase in the number of shootings, following no such incidents in 2019 as well as a notable increase in the number of paramilitary style attacks.

Meanwhile, 79 people were arrested under the Terrorist Act in 2020, compared to 147 in 2019.

The PSNI also recorded variations in finds.

Security alerts in Londonderry and Belfast
Emergency services attend the scene in Hawthorn Street, Belfast, after security alerts in Londonderry and Belfast have closed a school and a medical centre (Liam McBurney/PA)

Fewer firearms were found in 2020 (18) compared to 2019 (39) but more explosives and ammunition were located.

Officers seized 1.1kg of explosives, compared with 0.5kg in 2019, and 2,250 rounds of ammunition, compared with 706 rounds in 2019.

A large quantity of ammunition was found during a single recovery in May 2020.