Dissident groups have formed a single, new IRA to send a clear message to the republican community of an increasingly united challenge to the British government in Northern Ireland.
Sources in the new organisation told the Belfast Telegraph they had joined forces to end "the confusion" in republican heartlands created by the existence of a myriad of dissident groups.
The Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), and the group of independent republicans – responsible for Massereene and murdering police officer Ronan Kerr – have merged to form a single organisation calling itself the IRA.
"By coming together we now offer a much more credible republican alternative to the Provisional movement," a source in the new group said.
"We will build on that to present a stronger challenge to British rule, and the implementation of British rule, in Ireland.
"The existence of so many republican organisations before played into the hands of our opponents who could point to our divisions and dismiss us all as micro groups.
"That is no longer the case. Our unity is our strength," a dissident source said. He added that the new IRA's main targets would be British soldiers and PSNI officers.
He agreed that the paramilitary group would be limited to mounting sporadic attacks and was incapable of waging a sustained campaign of violence as the Provisional IRA had.
"Those days are gone. Our aim is to disrupt Britain's normalisation policy. We do not need to carry out military operations every day or every week to do so," he said.
"The very existence of continuing armed struggle highlights the lie that the conflict is over and everything is settled. It shows there still are people here prepared to challenge British rule."
The formation of a single new IRA has its roots in co-operation between independent republican prisoners and Real IRA inmates in Maghaberry prison.
The two groups had formed an increasingly close and friendly working relationship in the jail.
On the outside, there had also been growing co-operation between the Real IRA and independent republicans. The Real IRA provided the weapons for Massereene but the attack was carried out by independent republicans.
This group of independent republicans – made up of ex-Provisional IRA members who had also called themselves the IRA – had recently posed the deadliest threat to the security forces.
They were responsible for the attempted murder of PSNI officer Peadar Heffron and the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr.
This group – along with the Real IRA and RAAD – decided to bring their co-operation to a new level by dissolving their organisations and forming a new single entity.
Sources said that moves to stand down the three groups and set up a single new command structure and army council began in January.
Each group brought its separate "strengths" to the merger. The Real IRA had a sizeable membership across Northern Ireland and in parts of the Republic, with a high proportion of young activists.
It was the best armed of the three organisations. The independent group of republicans – who were almost all seasoned ex-Provisional IRA members – bring with them a range of deadly expertise and experience.
The Continuity IRA and another republican paramilitary group, Oglaigh na hEireann, will continue to exist separately.
The new IRA presents the greatest threat in Belfast, Derry, South Down, Lurgan and Tyrone.
The security forces will be watching avidly to gauge the group's capabilities. Despite its high-profile emergence, the impact of the new IRA and the level of support it will receive in republican communities, remain to be seen.