The ATM crime spree that links back to Lyra's suspected killers
The dissident republican movement that harboured the suspected murderers of Lyra McKee is profiting from and facilitating the recent spate of ATM robberies, gardai believe.
Three main criminal gangs operating on both sides of the Border are suspected of being behind the bulk of the elaborate cashpoint raids, according to a senior security source. The gangs are small and tight, with no more than three to five members.
They are either sympathisers or criminal opportunists, willing to pay the cut demanded by local dissident republican factions.
The suspects for the robbery of two ATMs in Co Meath last Thursday include the leader of the crime gang involved in the murder of Garda Adrian Donohoe.
The gang is known to gardai for having close links to dissident republicans, which can involve sharing resources, intelligence and the proceeds of crime.
In the overnight heist in Co Meath, machines were ripped from two banks in Kells. The raiders fled in separate cars and left spikes outside a local garda station to hamper their response.
The same gang is also suspected of being behind ATM thefts in Co Cavan and Co Monaghan.
Around the same time as the Kells robberies, ATM machines in Craigavon, Co Armagh, and Crumlin, Co Antrim, were also hit, but gardai believe these were carried out by a different gang. The ATM crime spree has raised alarm among banks and retailers, with one petrol station owner in Co Louth taking the ATM out of service to avoid being hit.
Dissidents are not suspected of carrying out the raids directly. The PSNI told Northern politicians earlier this month they were not involved in orchestrating attacks on ATMs there.
Security services are increasingly concerned about how much of this stolen cash is being diverted to dissident republicans. The primary dissident agitator is the New IRA, which is suspected for shooting dead young journalist Lyra McKee in Derry last Thursday.
"They are a serious concern, if not the most serious concern. They are fundraising on both sides of the Border. They are agitating. They are working on divisions caused by Brexit for their own ends," said a source.