GARDAI have made one of the biggest seizures of dissident republican arms and explosives following a search operation at Meelick, County Clare.
Technical experts were examining the find last night which includes a variety of weapons but, most importantly, recently manufactured devices for detonating bombs.
The Garda Special Detective Unit has been searching for an arms and explosives manufacturing operation by the dissidents for more than a year and the indications are that the find in a wooded area in Meelick marked a major breakthrough in that search.
Sources said the find includes several TPUs (timer power units) the key elements in bomb making based exactly on the same devices manufactured by the Provisional IRA during its campaign up to the mid-1990s. Gardai believe that former Provo bomb makers who had been inactive for years decided last year to join the dissidents and begin manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) again.
No arrests were made but, it is understood, the seizure was linked to another operation in July in which Gardai recovered 15 kg of the Soviet manufactured explosive, Semtex, and a variety of weapons and ammunition in Dublin.
Tonight’s seizure included a substantial amount of explosives, ammunition, detonators, TPUs, a variety of firearms, CS gas containers, magazines and balaclavas. Full details of the find are to be made tomorrow Sunday.
Gardai have been investigating links between dissident republicans based in Dublin and Limerick and have had significant successes in the past year since a new group, terming itself the “New Real IRA” including former leading members of the Provisional IRA emerged.
The group was able to access weapons and the Semtex explosives which the Provisional IRA claimed to have decommissioned but failed to do so.
Sources say the claims that the Provisional IRA weapons were decommissioned was a fraud and that it was accepted by both the British and Irish governments as an expedient to assist the entry of Sinn Fein into government in Northern Ireland with the Democratic Unionist Party. Gardai believe a substantial amount of the Provisional IRA’s armoury was hidden from the international decommissioning group which was charged with overseeing the destruction of weapons.
The dissidents in the Republic are mainly based in Dublin and Limerick with some support in the Midlands. The Limerick dissidents have responsibility for storing and moving weapons. Gardai have closed in on the network operating in the Republic to supply arms to dissidents in Northern Ireland intent on re-igniting terrorist violence. They regard tonight’s discovery of the arms haul as “hugely important”, according to senior sources.
Garda, PSNI and the British Intelligence service, MI5, have had major successes in the past year in thwarting dissident republican attack but still regard the threat as “high”. In March last Gardai and security forces in the North seized mortars about to be used against the Strand Road PSNI Station in Derry.
- Jim Cusack