Murder threat to Travellers who use Real IRA's name

Ken Foy, Crime correspondent

THE Real IRA has threatened to shoot a number of Traveller criminals carrying out extortion using the dissidents' name.

The development came as gardai stepped up armed patrols and search operations in the Coolock, north Dublin, area, where a number of the Travellers are operating.

With tensions increasing, the garda helicopter patrolled the skies over the Coolock area for a number of hours last night.

In the early hours of yesterday morning there was a heavy garda presence in the nearby Belcamp area and gardai are also investigating a shooting incident that happened in the locality in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Among the Traveller criminals under "active threat" 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 the photograph of the republican funeral as a chilling warning.

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.

"This seems to have really upset some people in the dissident community and the three men were visited by four dissidents last week and warned to stop what they have been doing.

"They were told in no uncertain terms that they would be shot dead if they continued with their activities."

The Herald can reveal that the Traveller criminals are strongly connected to a jailed senior dissident who received a severe beating from other dissident Republicans recently in Portlaoise Prison.