A HIGH-PROFILE businessman and property developer, with close links to top politicians and celebrities, has been secretly paying huge sums of money to the Real IRA for protection.
According to dissident Republican informants and sources in the security services, the millionaire gave at least €200,000 to the terror group in the past year and has promised to hand over in excess of €1m this year.
Details of the arrangement emerged when anti-terrorist Special Branch officers and the crime and security section in Garda HQ stepped up their investigations into dissident Republican activities since the murder of Alan Ryan last year.
Suspicions were fuelled when the businessman lodged money to the bank account of a man linked to a member of the RIRA last year.
The connection between the businessman and the terrorists was confirmed last November when the Real IRA kneecapped one of their own members who they accused of "misappropriating" some of the protection money. Dubliner Nathan Kinsella (34), an associate of Alan Ryan, was abducted and shot in Ballyfermot on November 25 last.
Kinsella, from Matt Talbot Court in central Dublin, was one of three men charged with IRA membership in September following the paramilitary display at Ryan's funeral. The murdered man's younger brother Vincent (22) and another associate, Daragh Evans (23), were also charged.
In January the man who was second in command of the Alan Ryan gang was also abducted and shot as part of an ongoing "internal purge".
Declan Smith (30), also known as 'Fat Deccy', was found with a gunshot wound to the leg at Fairgreen in Saggart, west Dublin, on January 19.
Smith, originally from Belfast, had reportedly replaced Ryan as leader of the gang.
He is currently wanted by the PSNI for questioning about the murder of two men in Belfast in 2007.
Security sources believe that Smith was targeted by his own comrades in connection with the money being paid by the businessman.
He had been ordered to meet with members of the discipline squad for questioning. A convicted drug dealer, who had been taken to the meeting, was arrested by gardai a short time after the punishment shooting.
The businessman, who is now the centre of a major investigation, has kept his links to organised crime a closely guarded secret for decades while at the same time rubbing shoulders with the country's rich and famous.
He is currently being pursued by the banks for property debts but is suspected of hiding a fortune, which he amassed through crime.
The Irish Independent has learned that he "hired" Alan Ryan and the RIRA to protect him and his family after he had been threatened by underworld associates and the INLA.
The former tycoon has been under the protection of the Republican criminals since then.
His mansion is also equipped with a hi-tech CCTV security system. RIRA members have also been staying at the home of another close relative of their benefactor.
Gardai believe that the businessman has been a central player in organised crime both here and in the UK for many years.
He controls a tightly-knit group of trusted associates who are involved in the smuggling of huge quantities of illegal drugs and money laundering.
The businessman also acts as a de facto banker for a number of well-known criminal families in the Traveller community.
However, at the same time he worked hard to nurture a respectable front and invested heavily over the past 30 years in legitimate businesses and property development.
His circle of friends and contacts included politicians, celebrities and even some senior gardai.
But the businessman's legitimate endeavours fell apart in the economic collapse and he is now being chased by the banks.
In the past year he has also fallen out with a number of major criminal gangs in Dublin who have begun pressurising him for money.
The businessman and his family were threatened that they would be seriously harmed if they didn't pay up. That was when he called in the Real IRA.
In a newspaper interview last month a spokesman for the terror gang, which now calls itself the 'IRA' after merging with two other dissident groups, claimed that the shooting of Nathan Kinsella was carried out after their "discipline squad" found illegal drugs during a search of his apartment.
Republican informants have claimed that the new IRA group is "very concerned" that their funding from the businessman is kept under wraps and not cut off.
Northern dissidents have teamed up with a number of former senior Provos from Dublin, Cork and Dundalk in a major effort to re-organise and establish a powerbase in the capital.