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Garda chief pledges to halt the Real IRA

GARDA Commissioner Pat Byrne pledged yesterday a continuing crackdown on the so-called Real IRA to stop them wrecking the North peace process.

And Justice Minister John O'Donoghue pledged full Government resources to the gardai to curb any threat from the dissident republican group.

The warnings were issued as detectives continued searching a terrorist training camp at Herbertstown on the Meath-Dublin border. Senior officers feel further weapons are concealed on land surrounding the site of the former Herbertstown House where a firing range had been built into an old wine cellar.

Ten suspects arrested in the bunker on Wednesday night were still being questioned last night under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act in five garda stations.

They include two boys aged 14 and 15 and three members of the same family from Donaghmede in north Dublin. Two are from Ballybough in the north inner city, three from Dundalk, one from Armagh and one from Stamullen near the firing range.

One of the suspects had recently been convicted in the Special Criminal Court of a firearms offence and another is regarded as ``the most trusted lieutenant'' of the so-called chief of staff of the Real IRA from north Louth.


Gardai believe that three of those detained had been members of the Continuity IRA until recent months and believe the arrests confirmed intelligence suggesting that the Real IRA were recruiting among the other dissident factions while also trying to attract disaffected Provisionals.

The raid on the training camp was the third prong in a pre-emptive strike designed to disrupt Real IRA plans to mount a new terrorist offensive in the North and, possibly, in Britain.

Earlier this month, a terrorist technician's workshop and a homemade mortar were found in Co Wexford and further raids were carried out in Co Donegal.

Commissioner Byrne yesterday paid tribute to the intelligence gathered by his members and said it was playing a vital role in the drive against the dissident terrorists and the crackdown on their training plans.

It was the quality of the Garda intelligence that prompted the RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, to issue his third warning within a month on Wednesday that a new terror campaign by a breakaway group could be expected, particularly in the Border region.

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Mr Byrne commented at the Garda College in Templemore after a graduation ceremony: ``These finds do not happen by chance. They are intelligence driven and are the results of months of hard work by our special units and local gardai.

``We are aware that in recent months this group has re-organised and restructured itself into several departments with responsibility for recruitment, training, funding and arms procurement and each has its own separate task in preparation for a terror campaign.''

The Minister warned that the Government would not tolerate the activities of a group attempting to undermine the Good Friday agreement.

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