A suspected anti-5G activist has been arrested for allegedly damaging multiple telecom masts in the west of Ireland in recent weeks.
The Co Mayo man was arrested in military-style clothing while allegedly in the process of damaging a telephone mast.
He was interviewed several times and was co-operative with investigators.
The man is facing 11 counts of criminal damage in relation to nine telephone masts in Mayo and Galway. The man is due to appear before Castlebar District Court next month.
Details of the arrest were first revealed by An Garda Síochána’s intelligence chief Assistant Commissioner Michael McElgunn in an interview in Monday’s Irish Examiner.
Mr McElgunn said there were a number of attacks on 5G masts in Ireland in recent weeks, leading gardaí to put an operation in place last week to catch the culprit.
He said the man, who had taken “counter-surveillance” measures, was arrested while wearing military fatigues and in the act of damaging one of the masts.
“It probably demonstrates how these views and opinions lead an individual, a lone actor, to go ahead and take action,” the assistant commissioner said.
“In a general sense, could somebody be radicalised in that way, not to commit criminal damage, but to do an act of violence? Of course, it’s quite possible.”
Opposition to 5G technology, which allows for faster mobile internet speeds, has grown in recent years in conspiracy theory circles. This growth accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic amid claims the technology was being used to spread the virus.
During this period, several masts were damaged in Ireland, many of which did not use 5G technology.
Elsewhere in his interview, Mr McElgunn, whose unit’s work is investigating the financing of overseas Islamic terrorism, said: “About five years ago, we set up a group within Special Branch [Special Detective Unit] to investigate terrorist financing and they are now investigating, on average, 60 cases of terrorist financing a year.”
Asked about funding for far-right groups, the assistant commissioner said: “We assess that some funding to groupings to the right of the political spectrum has its origins in like-minded US groups or individuals.”