Garda alert over fake guns dished out to gangsters

Ken Foy, Crime correspondent

THESE are the realistic imitation firearms that a dangerous Coolock-based gang are providing to their foot-soldiers to cause mayhem and intimidation on the streets of the capital.

In a serious incident at the weekend, garda reinforcements had to be called in after a major public disorder incident involving the gang in Darndale.

The mob, which is made up of Traveller criminals, has been working with dissident Republican terrorists.

Senior gardai believe that the gang has been producing pipe bombs for the dissidents and organised criminal gangs.

Our exclusive photo shows the weapons that have been given to junior gang members.

Sources say that the firearm has been designed to look like a version of a Beretta 92 -- one of gangland's most lethal handguns.

The Traveller gang is now a major target for gardai and rival criminals and some of its leaders have been recently warned that their lives are under active threat.

Last month, gardai carried out searches at properties linked to the Traveller mob as part of a major investigation into dissident Republican activity in Dublin.

Gardai arrested one 28-year-old man who was released without charge after being questioned for 12 hours. A file has been sent to the DPP.

The Herald has learnt that this man has survived a number of attempts on his life, including an incident where he was shot at in September.

On that occasion, a number of properties were searched in the Coolock area and searches were also carried out in the south inner city.

Among the Traveller criminals who have forged links with the Continuity IRA and Real IRA are three men who were arrested by armed officers from the Special Detective Unit in July over a botched extortion racket.

Ten people were arrested in the operation in Balbriggan in north Co Dublin after the gang initially targeted the wrong house.

The group then arrived at the home of a man they had selected as a potential victim.

Wearing balaclavas and scarves over their faces, three or four of the group entered the house while the rest remained outside.

They told their target that he would be shot if he did not meet their demand for a five figure cash sum.He was then shown a photograph of a Republican funeral as a chilling warning.

The Herald has previously revealed that the Real IRA had issued death threats against the Traveller mob because they were 'trading' under the IRA name.

A reliable source explained: "The Travellers have been using the IRA name for extortion, intimidation and swindling money out of people - they have been targeting people in their own community.

"They are involved in a number of localised Traveller feuds and have been claiming that they have the backing of the IRA."

The Traveller criminals are strongly connected to a jailed senior dissident who received a severe beating from other dissident Republicans last summer in Portlaoise Prison.

Sources say that they are responsible for shooting other Travellers in a terrifying incident in May and burning out their caravans.