Tuesday 27 September 2016

Garda operation has dealt a huge blow to renegades

Published 15/05/2015 | 02:30

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles
Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles

The anti-terrorist operation which resulted in the arrests of suspected dissident republicans and the seizure of a large a haul of explosives is one of the most significant strikes by the Special Branch against the renegades for several years.

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Among those detained is a senior republican activist who is alleged to be the leader of the most dangerous faction of the Real IRA.

Senior officers are now seeking the go-ahead from the DPP to press charges of directing terrorism against the prime suspect.

The man, who is from Co Louth, is a former key associate of Michael McKevitt, who is currently serving a 20-year sentence in Portlaoise prison for a similar offence.

McKevitt, a co-founder of the Real IRA, was the first dissident to be charged and convicted of the offence, which was introduced in the wake of the Omagh bombing atrocity in August 1998.

The suspect has IRA-linked convictions dating back to the 1970s and more recently received a substantial sentence from the Special Criminal Court after the Special Branch swooped on a Real IRA training camp.

If charged with directing terrorism, he will become only the second person to face charges for that offence.

Gardaí have stepped up surveillance of dissident republicans as they prepare for the visit of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.

One officer told the Irish Independent: "The finds and arrests dovetailed nicely with the increased security for the royal visits but were not directly connected with it.

"The operation was planned well in advance and resulted from ongoing inquiries into the activities of dissidents along the Border."

Four men were arrested, including the son of a former prominent Provisional IRA activist.

Gardaí say their security plan for the royal visits is based on the model drawn up for the visits of Queen Elizabeth and US president Barack Obama in May 2011 when 8,000 gardaí were involved in the two operations, backed up by the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.

Next week's plan will be a scaled down version of that model in terms of numbers but will still include a wide range of measures, including surveillance, intelligence-gathering and on-the-ground protection in all of locations scheduled to be visited.

But while being comprehensive, it will also be reflective of the changes in attitude here towards a visit of a member of the British royal family over the past decade, and a far cry from the grim days of 1979 when Lord Mountbatten, uncle of Prince Philip, was murdered in a bomb blast on his yacht, off Mullaghmore, Co Sligo.

Irish Independent

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