The officer, who made the revelation to the News Letter, said although there has been a list of around 10 suspected dissidents in circulation to officers for months, the numbers have swelled to more than 30 in the last eight weeks.These are, of course, the 'main players' – the total number of dissidents under observation is around 200, and presumably some of the smaller fish are younger than the leaders. But nonetheless, it is interesting to note that the prime movers in dissident republican circles are 'new blood'.
He added that the majority of men – and one woman – on the list are in their 40s.
"When the mail came out a lot of us recognised the names, and out of the 30-plus there were no teenagers. The youngest was around 30 and the oldest near pension age. These suspected dissidents are mainly mature men from all walks of life. Quite a few of the men are in their late 30s and 40s," he said.
If dissident republican politics follows dissident republic military activism, the risk to the Sinn Féin political strategy would appear to be small. The noise being made about dissident republican inroads into Sinn Féin's support base would not appear to be borne out, and this leaves Sinn Féin with a certain amount of leeway to pursue its political goals. The dissidents are not posing the kind of threat to Sinn Féin that the TUV is posing to the DUP.