Explosives seized by gardai is blow to dissidents

 

Gardai have struck another important blow against anti-Belfast Agreement republicans, seizing up to 80 sticks of commercial explosives at a farm on the Waterford/Kilkenny border.

The seizure may have averted a bomb attack in Britain. Gardai believe anti-agreement dissidents have been planning such an attack in another attempt to destabilise the political situation in Northern Ireland.

Two men were being questioned last night by gardai in Thurles and Limerick after the discovery of the explosives at Kilmacow, Co Kilkenny.

Senior Garda sources said the explosives were being held by the Continuity IRA, the group formed in the early 1990s after breaking away from the Provisional IRA. However, gardai believe the group is working closely with the "Real IRA", which was responsible for the Omagh atrocity in August 1998, and that both have been conspiring to launch a large bomb attack in Britain either over Christmas or in the new year.

The attack would be a further attempt to disrupt negotiations involving both governments and the political parties in the North over the key issues of decommissioning, demilitarisation in south Armagh and the implementation of the Patten report. Senior government officials from Dublin, London and Belfast are engaged in talks this week.

Gardai Special Branch officers led the operation which resulted in yesterday's seizure of the explosives concealed in a ditch, near a primary school in Kilmacow, four miles from Waterford city. The 70 to 80 sticks of Frangex explosive are said to be in good condition. A search will continue today for other bomb-making equipment.

Gardai believe they had been stored there a short time earlier by dissident republicans. An investigation by Tipperary-based detectives and members of the Garda crime and security division has been in place for several days.

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Mr Peter Mandelson, yesterday gave a strong indication the US administration will include the "Real IRA" among its list of terrorist organisations.

Speaking during Northern Ireland Questions in the House of Commons, he said that after an initial "misunderstanding or lack of information", between London and Washington, the US administration had "listened to and considered more carefully" his representations on the matter.

"I am confident that given that the Irish Government too has now decided to add their voice to this call, the American government will indeed designate the `Real IRA'."