A veteran Republican activist has told an English newspaper that the Queen is a legitimate assassination target when she visits Dublin next month.

Josephine Hayden, who served time in Limerick jail for possession of arms for the Continuity IRA, made the claim in an interview with the Observer newspaper.

Her remarks were published just 24 hours after Omagh man Gavin Coyle was charged with terrorism offenses in a County Tyrone court as a result of police investigations into the recent murder of Catholic policeman Ronan Kerr.

Hayden also said that the murder of Kerr, who was blown up by a car bomb planted by an East Tyrone splinter group of ex-IRA men, was justified.

The shocking comments come as security forces on both sides of the Irish border step up plans for the visit of the British monarch and the US president next month.

Asked about her attitude to a sniper firing on the visiting Royal party in Dublin, the 65-year-old Hayden told the Observer: “I wouldn’t have any problem with it.”

Hayden added: “I think it would be justified, most definitely, because she is the chief of staff of the British armed forces, who are still occupying our country, who are still operating on Irish streets in the six counties of Ulster.

“You might say that she is just a little old grandmother, but it is what she represents, what she symbolizes, that counts. She is a legitimate target, yes.”

Speaking in the Dublin offices of Republican Sinn Fein, Hayden also defended the horrific murder in Omagh of Catholic policeman Ronan Kerr, a GAA player.

“He too was a legitimate target because he put on a British uniform,” claimed Hayden.

The East Tyrone group of Dissident Republicans has already claimed responsibility for Kerr’s murder and has promised to embark on a fresh campaign of violence "under the name of the Irish Republican Army."

In response, the Police Service of Northern Ireland has warned that dissidents intend to "kill more officers in the coming days and weeks."

The Observer article also includes comments from 33-year-old Ciaran Collins, a Lurgan nationalist whom the paper says represents a small but growing band of young men in nationalist parts of North Armagh who believe that the murder of police and security targets is justified.

Collins told the London-based paper that most of his friends would have supported the policeman’s murder.

“When they heard about it, they would have had no problem with it. I had no problem with it. It might have been sad for him and his family, but the attack was against what his uniform stands for – British rule in the north of Ireland,” said Collins.

He also claimed that such attacks increase recruitment to the dissident Republican forces.

“There are people joining from all classes and backgrounds who are fed up with the lies of the so-called peace process, including third-level students,” he said.

SDLP councilor Dolores Kelly, attacked by young dissident republicans last week as she was driving through the nationalist Kilwilkie estate in Lurgan, has warned of the growing dissident Republican threat.

She stated: “There are about 30 to 50 young people whom the Continuity IRA have recruited in this area, and they are the hardcore who are causing the trouble.

“Many of these incidents are caused by young men who have been drinking and taking drugs. Their violence is recreational and is being exploited by more sinister forces.”