Dissident republican weapons becoming ‘more sophisticated’

Gardaí put mortars, rifles, and bomb making items seized over past five years on display

Weaponry seized from dissident republicans has been growing steadily more sophisticated over the past five years, according to gardaí.

Assistant commissioner John O’Mahony, who leads the force’s crime and security division, told reporters there was also evidence of increased sophistication in the activities of dissident republicans.

He was speaking at Garda Headquarters in Dublin on Wednesday during a briefing on weapon seizures, and where a number of seized guns and bomb-making equipment was put on display.

During the briefing, members of the Garda ballistics unit showcased a range of weapons seized from dissident republicans.


They included a beer keg bomb recovered from Kilcurry in May 2014, mortars, sniper rifles, AK47 rifles, associated ammunition, a phone trigger circuit, timer power units, rockets and a sample of explosives.

Mr O’Mahony said the three main dissident groups operating in the Republican were the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, and Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Some of the items on display were recovered in searches that took place in the latter part of 2015 in Co Monaghan and Co Louth. Other items were recovered earlier last year in searches in Wexford, Kildare and Louth.

“If you look at some of these devices and the way they are operated, it shows an increasing sign of the sophistication in relation to engineering,” said Mr O’Mahony.

“Over the last five years, we have seen a steady and gradual rise in the activities of dissident republicans becoming more sophisticated. We need the people of this jurisdiction to be very conscious that this sort of activity is still going on around the country.”


He said that while the number of dissident republicans is small, they are “very focused and very clear” in their objectives. “As a result of that, we spend a significant amount of time and resources combating their activities,” he said.

“What we are seeing from a ballistics perspective is a continued increasing capacity to develop and improve explosive devices so these devices are less and less crude as time goes on.”

Mr O’Mahony, who oversaw the security arrangements for the visits of Queen Elizabeth and US president Barack Obama in 2011, said there were concrete threats of attack during the visits. “Absolutely, I say that without hesitation,” he said.

“That’s something that is obviously of great concern to us. Last year we had the visit of Prince Philip and in 2011 we had the queen. On both occasions, we had significant disruption in relation to attacks that were being planned.”

Mr O’Mahony said that “idealism and peer pressure” were the most common mechanisms used by dissidents to recruit followers.

“We’ve seen in the history of this country that there will be somebody there to replace others,” he said.

“We are finding that as we disrupt one area, there are people ready to take over. I can tell you that in just the last two years, we have over 30 firearms seized, over 1,000 rounds of ammunition, a number of mortars and rocket-launchers. One very significant find in the last few years was in Co Dublin where we had a significant seizure of semtex explosive.”

The head of the Irish Farmers Association in Co Louth has called for criminals in Border areas to be tagged while they are before the courts for alleged offences. Mr O’Mahony said the force would “consider favourably” any measure that assists detectives to monitor individuals on bail.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter