A counter-terrorism expert has said he is encouraged by the fact that the so-called New IRA has admitted to not having public support for its campaign of violence.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Ken Pennington said he believes that will be a key factor in defeating the group.

The group admitted responsibility for killing 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry on 18 April.

The 'New IRA' is an amalgam of armed groups opposed to the peace process and it recently claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow in March.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, the leadership of the group vowed to continue its campaign of violence despite admitting there is no public support for it.

It said: We fully accept we cannot defeat the British militarily, or even drive them from Ireland, but we will continue to fight for as long as they remain there".
Mr Pennington said he was both depressed and encouraged by the statements.

He said it takes very little for them to sustain a campaign but is "encouraged that they are acknowledging that they don't have community support, because it's that support - coming to both police services and states - that will ultimately defeat them, because that's where our intelligence will come from."

Political talks aimed at reviving power-sharing in Northern Ireland are due to get under way on 7 May.

Mr Pennington said he does not believe getting Stormont up and running will have an immediate impact on groups like the New IRA.

"I don't think it'll have a direct impact on those groups, they are very hardline. 

"But it is there to fill a vacuum. If we can get both political parties continuing to condemn what is going on and help win community support, that's only going to be to our advantage."

The 'New IRA' is believed to have been formed between 2011 and 2012 following the merger of a number of smaller groups, including the Real IRA - the group behind the 1998 Omagh bomb.

It is strongest in Derry, north and west Belfast,  Lurgan in Co Armagh, and pockets of Tyrone, including Strabane.

Additional Reporting PA