Gardai step up hunt for Real IRA after arms seizures
GARDAI are to widen their operation against Real IRA units that have been providing logistical support from the Republic for terrorist attacks on selected targets in Northern Ireland.
Buoyed by two significant seizures of explosives and arms since Friday, anti-terrorist chiefs will now intensify their crackdown on the dissidents in their strongholds around the country.
The seizures were made as a result of intelligence gathered under Operation Designer, which has been disrupting dissident republican activities north and south for 18 months.
But a number of new avenues of inquiry have also been opened up and these are expected to pave the way for more widespread raids and searches.
Last night gardai were trying to trace some of the seized weaponry, thought to have originated in Eastern Europe.
Officers are hoping that through forensic checks and co-operation with other police agencies they will be able to establish the source of the weaponry and confirm when it was imported into the country by a faction of the Real IRA.
The latest haul was taken away by gardai from the underground hide at Barmeath Woods, outside Dunleer, Co Louth, after an Army bomb disposal team gave the all-clear yesterday at around 11.30am.
The Army ordnance experts were called in by gardai to deal with an improvised mortar bomb which had to be exploded on the spot.
The Army held on to the three kilos of TNT explosive, a large quantity of black powder and more than a dozen fully assembled detonators also recovered from the hide.
But the rest of the haul, including a light general-purpose machine gun, a sawn-off shotgun, a significant quantity of ammunition, a pipe bomb and a large amount of other bomb components as well as special forensic clothing was taken away by officers from the technical bureau to their headquarters in the Phoenix Park.
An Army bomb team was also called in by gardai on Saturday and Sunday to carry out controlled explosions on two detonators found as part of the cache discovered in a makeshift shed converted into a bomb factory at Barntown, Co Wexford.
This find largely consisted of component parts but the haul at Barmeath Woods was ready for use and had been stored underground for handover to active terror units operating across the Border.
The number of personnel, drawn from anti-terrorist units such as the Special Branch and Emergency Response Units and deployed under Operation Designer, has been increased in recent months as gardai build up intelligence on dissidents.
It is estimated that the two factions from the Real IRA, both led by Co Louth men who were former associates of the organisation's founding member Michael McKevitt, have a combined strength with the Continuity IRA of around 150 activists on this side of the Border. Another 300-350 are involved in the terror campaign in the North.