More dissident Republican-linked arms and explosives found in Co Louth

Latest discovery included about 2,000 rounds of ammunition and two rifles

A compilation image of some of the materials found. Photographs: An Garda Síochána

A compilation image of some of the materials found. Photographs: An Garda Síochána

 

Gardaí have discovered explosives, ammunition and firearms in a search targeting dissident Republicans close to where a mortar tube and cache of ammunition was found four weeks ago.

The latest discovery included about 2,000 rounds of ammunition of varying calibre and two longarm rifles. The find was made on Thursday near Omeath, Co Louth, in an operation linked to last month’s find.

Garda sources said the material found during both searches was owned by the same dissident Republican faction. They said the finds were “hugely significant”.

While the material found was buried in the ground and concealed in a wooded area, is not historical and was described as being “in working order”.

Gardaí believe the haul was being stored as it was found, on the Cooley Peninsula, to support dissident republican attacks in the North.

On Friday, February 1st, a mortar tube and a very large quantity of ammunition of varying calibre, was found buried in the ground in a wooded area near Omeath.

That discovery came just two weeks after a car bomb exploded in Derry, with the New IRA dissident paramilitary group believed to be behind that crime.

In the latest find, made during Thursday’s follow-up operation, the ammunition, semtex explosives and two firearms found were also discovered in the ground. They were wrapped in plastic bags and concealed in plastic piping.

Both finds were made after planned searches based on intelligence received by the Garda about terrorism in the border region.

The Garda search operation in Co Louth where quantities of ammunition and a mortar tube were discovered. Photograph: An Garda Síochána handout/PA Wire
The Garda search operation underway in Co Louth last month where quantities of ammunition and a mortar tube were discovered. Photograph: An Garda Síochána handout/PA Wire

Connected hauls

The cache found on Thursday is regarded as part of the haul discovered last month, with intelligence suggesting there was more material at the site than that found last month.

A team of garda went back to the area and used excavation machinery, unearthing the second half of the cache buried in the ground.

The operation was carried out by personnel from the Louth Garda division and the Special Detective Unit, which investigates terrorism, as well as Special Tactics & Operations Command.

“During the operation, Gardaí recovered a quantity of explosives, two firearms and a sizable quantity of ammunition of various calibres,” the Garda said on Friday of the latest find.

“An (Army bomb disposal) unit of the Defence Forces later visited the site and some of the material was later destroyed by a controlled explosion.”

The Garda added that investigations were ongoing and that “for operational reasons” no further comment would be made.

There is concern at present that Brexit may result in hard border infrastructure being installed on the border between the Republic and the North. The location of the finds made on Thursday and last month are within 3km of the border.

Justice and Garda sources in Dublin believe even minimal infrastructure, such as cameras being erected, would become a target for dissident Republicans.

A key concern is that such attacks, and more focus on and debate about the border, may become a rallying cause that rejuvenates dissident republicans, though their numbers are very small at present.

The car bomb that exploded in Derry in mid January heightened those concerns.

The bomb was planted in a city where, like Belfast, the security services have never stepped down their preparedness or vigilance related to terrorism. A concern is that the Border region would be even easier for the terrorists to operate in and much harder to police.

The Border region is one where geography means dissidents North and South can co-operate easily with each other and could together strike at the PSNI and any Border controls that may result from a hard Brexit.