Key dissident held after suspects in bomb-making targeted

Six dissident suspects arrested in Garda operations in Louth, Wexford and Leitrim

A leading figure in the dissident republican movement was being held for questioning after gardaí carried out more than 20 searches across three counties targeting men suspected of involvement in bomb-making.

The development comes as anti-terrorist gardaí stepped up their activities ahead of a visit to the Republic next week by Britain’s Prince Charles.

In a separate Garda operation on Wednesday morning, two suspected dissidents were arrested when suspected bomb-making equipment and a pistol were found when their car was stopped in Co Leitrim.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will visit the northwest during their four-day trip, starting next Tuesday.


They plan to go to Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, where Prince Charles’s great uncle Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA in 1979.

They also plan to go horse-racing in Sligo, less than 25 miles from where the gun and bomb-making equipment were found on Wednesday.

When the queen visited Ireland four years ago, gardaí and the Army's bomb disposal experts were forced to deal with a series of callouts related to viable and hoax explosive devices.

Planned raids

The senior dissident arrested during the planned anti-terrorist raids on Wednesday has a number of terror-related convictions, including for directing terrorism. He is in his 60s and was detained along with three men in their 20s.

The senior figure has been key to training new recruits in bomb-making and handling firearms and was once convicted in relation to the discovery of an arsenal of weapons including rocket launchers and AK47s.

He had close links with the late well-known Real IRA figure Alan Ryan, and is also close to the organisation’s jailed leader Michael McKevitt.

The four arrested suspects were taken from where they were detained in Dromiskin, Co Louth, and Wexford, to Garda stations in Dublin, where they were detained under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.

The men were being questioned on suspicion of a number of offences including directing terrorism, membership of an illegal organisation and possession of explosives.

The operation that resulted in their arrests was carried out by the Garda’s Special Detective Unit and Crime & Security branch.

The 20 searches took place in Counties Dublin, Louth and Wexford, with the lead units supported by their colleagues from the Emergency Response Unit, Garda Technical Bureau, Garda Dog Unit and uniformed and detective gardaí from Louth and Wexford divisions.

Suspected bomb-making equipment

Equipment suspected by gardaí to be component parts for bomb-making was found during a number of the searches, while a suspect device was discovered at one site in Courtown, Co Wexford.

The latter location was sealed off and examined by members of the Army’s bomb disposal unit.

The component parts found were taken away for technical analysis.

In the unrelated operation in Co Leitrim, two men in their 20s were detained when a pistol and what gardaí believe are components for bomb-making were discovered in their car.

The Garda said the find was made at a road traffic enforcement checkpoint at Glenfarne on the N6, Sligo to Blacklion, road at about 11.45am.

The Army’s bomb disposal team was called in to examine the components. The suspects were arrested at the scene under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act and were being questioned at Manorhamilton Garda station.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times