Gardai believe the largest haul of explosives, firearms and ammunition ever seized from dissident republicans was stolen from the Provisional IRA in 1998 as the Real IRA split from it.
The haul, which includes 15kg of semtex explosives, was seized in north Co Dublin last week and put on display for the media today at Garda headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin.
Garda sources pointed out that just 80 grams of explosives was used in the under car bomb that killed PSNI constable Ronan Kerr in April 2011 at his home near Omagh.
“When you considering 15kg, you are talking about the potential to keep a bombing campaign going for many, many years,” said one Garda source.
The explosives and the rest of the haul was owned by the so-called New IRA, which is effectively an alliance that emerged last year made up of a number of dissident groups and factions.
As well as the semtex, the seized haul includes an Uzi sub machine gun, a Glock pistol, a Walther P1 pistol, a .445 revolver, a .38 revolver, four replica handguns, an air rifle, sawn off shot gun, conventional shotgun, semi automatic sawn off shotgun, two blank fire pistols, a Taser stun gun and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Also seized was a range of components for making pipe bombs, including detonator cord and igniters.
Garda sources said while some of the weapons are not believed to have been once owned by the now disbanded Provisional IRA, all of the semtex and some of the guns and ammunition were once part of that grouping’s arsenal, the remainder of which has been decommissioned.
“The Provisional IRA said around the time the dissidents broke away in the late 90s that some of its (weapons and explosives) had gone missing and we believed what’s been seized now is part of that,” said one Garda source.
The find was made on Wednesday of last week, July 3rd, during a search of lorry containers in a yard in at Cloghran, north Co Dublin. It is unclear how long the haul had been at the site but gardai believe the items had been moved in recent years rather than stored at the same location since the late 1990s.
Garda sources said the weapons and ammunition would have been used as part of a sustained terrorist campaign and related extortion and fundraising activities on both sides of the border. They believed the semtex would have been used in smaller bombs and boosters for larger devices made up of homemade explosives for attacks on the security services north of the border.
Gardai have already identified the chief suspects in the New IRA linked to the find and also recently raided a meeting or the organisation’s leadership in Dublin, where eight men were arrested after a property in the west of the city was placed under surveillance before gardai moved in.