Gardaí have discovered a cache of ammunition and a mortar tube in Co Louth which they believe is owned dissident republicans.
Searches were underway at a location in the Omeath area on the Cooley Peninsula after a pre-planned operation against dissident republicans and involving a number of specialist units.
The haul, which includes a very large quantity of ammunition of varying calibre, was found buried in the ground on a wooded area.
The Garda has requested the assistance of the Army’s bomb disposal unit. Sources said it may take some time before the precise nature and quantity of what has been found is confirmed.
Searching was expected to continue in areas on the Cooley Peninsula well into Saturday.
Garda sources said the material found appeared to be “in working order” and that the mortar shell and ammunition were not historical.
They believed the haul was being stored in the Republic for use in the North by dissidents whose aim it was to attack the security forces and cause disruption.
The find comes just two weeks after a car bomb exploded in Derry, with the New IRA dissident paramilitary group believed to be behind that crime.
While nobody was injured in the blast, members of the public walked past the hijacked car in which the bomb had been left on Bishop Street close to the old city walls and Derry’s courthouse.
Both Friday’s mortar and ammunition find and the bomb blast in Derry two weeks ago have come amid concern that any border infrastructure that could result from a hard Brexit would lead to a new wave of terror attacks by dissidents.
Senior Garda and PSNI officers have both warned that a hard border could become both a target for dissidents as well as a rallying and recruitment tool for them.
Security sources in Dublin said Friday’s find was clear evidence of the continued threat from dissident republicans.
One senior source estimated that “about 150” dissidents were of most immediate concern for the Garda as they were regarded as likely to be involved in planning or aiding terror attacks in the North.
The operation involves the Special Detective Unit, which investigates terrorism, and is being aided on the ground by the Emergency Response Unit.
“A Garda operation is currently underway in Co Louth as part of ongoing investigations targeting the activities of dissident Republican groups,” a statement from the Garda said.
“As part of the investigation a search operation commenced this morning on lands near Omeath on the Cooley peninsula.
“During the searches to date Gardaí have recovered a substantial quantity of ammunition of varied calibre along with a mortar tube,” the Garda said, adding the mortar tube had yet to be confirmed by ballistics experts.
“Army EOD are currently assisting at the site and a cordon is currently in place. The search is expected to continue into tomorrow. No arrests have been made at this time.”