Mortar seizure is serious blow to Real IRA faction
THE self-styled Oglaigh na hEireann group has provided the most serious terrorist threat in the North over the past year.
It is regarded by police on both sides of the Border as the most dangerous of the three main dissident republican groups.
It has about 50 activists and has been attempting to boost its ranks by a recruitment campaign north and south, while also stepping up its efforts to purchase arms and develop its skills in manufacturing homemade bombs.
The seizures on Tuesday night and early yesterday morning amounted to a major blow by the gardai against its engineering unit and follow up inquiries may lead to further successes.
Oglaigh na hEireann is a faction of the Real IRA and remains loyal to Michael McKevitt, who founded that breakaway gang after a rift in the Provisional IRA over the peace process in October 1997.
The Real IRA later divided into two separate organisations after a row between McKevitt and his former director of operations, Liam Campbell.
McKevitt is no longer a key military figure as he is serving 20 years in Portlaoise jail after his conviction for directing a terrorist organisation, a new offence created after the Omagh bomb atrocity, which killed 29 people in August 1998.
But a former trusted aide, now in his mid-50s, has control of this faction. He operated alongside McKevitt in the early days of the Real IRA and served a lengthy sentence in Portlaoise for terrorist-related offences.
Although the group has an army council, it does not have the military structure that existed within the Provisionals and all of its activities are sanctioned by the leader. A second layer of activists report directly to him and they pass on the instructions.
But despite this set-up they lack cohesion and in July gardai discovered two separate operations being carried out by the faction north and south of the Border near Omeath, without one unit knowing that the other team were active a couple of miles away.