SENIOR gardai in Dublin are concerned that the IRA has been attempting to establish control over parts of the south inner city under the cover of vigilante action against illegal drug users.
This is rejected by Sinn Fein and by republicans in Dublin but gardai say there is now clear evidence of republican involvement in vigilante attacks, shootings and, particularly, the killing of the AIDS sufferer, Mr Josey Dwyer, earlier this month.
Eighteen people have been questioned so far about the Dwyer killing. Two men and a woman arrested on Wednesday were released after questioning. As many as 40 people may eventually be questioned and gardai in south Dublin indicated yesterday that they have yet to question the "prime movers" in the crime.
Gardai report there has been interference with witnesses, including intimidation by IRA members in south inner Dublin, during the investigation into the Dwyer killing in the Dolphin's Barn area of the South Circular Road. They say witnesses have been threatened with being shot, knee capped and, in at least one case, that their family would be shot.
Within days of the Dwyer killing on May 10th, the Sinn Fein national leadership held a meeting at St Catherine's Hall, off James's Street. The meeting was attended by Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness. Sinn Fein says the hall was a venue for a party ardchomhairle meeting which did not discuss vigilante activity.
Gardai and local people confirm senior Sinn Fein figures were in the area but were unclear about the reason for the meeting.
The investigation into the killing of Josey Dwyer, who was in the advanced stages of AIDS and who weighed only six stone, has led to a series of arrests by gardai from the Kevin Street Station, backed by the Special Branch.
A major file on the investigation is being prepared but it has not yet been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Local gardai are understood to have identified two local republicans as having organised a "kangaroo court" which led to the expulsion of a young man from south inner Dublin shortly before the mob attack in which Mr Dwyer was beaten and kicked to death.
The gardai also say republican gunmen were responsible for a number of gun attacks on criminal figures in the Kevin Street district since the end of last year. One local IRA man is suspected of involvement in two attacks and was also questioned in connection with the discovery of a gun in the Fatima Mansions area, but has not been charged.
The gardai also reported republican involvement in vigilante activity in the Pearse Street area of south Dublin earlier this month, but this appears to have died out.
Sinn Fein yesterday denied any orchestrated involvement in vigilante activity in Dublin or elsewhere. A spokesman said Sinn Fein members had become involved in "anti drug" activity but "where this has happened, it is purely because of their individual involvement as local community activists.
A week ago, the IRA issued a statement denying newspaper reports it had a "hit list" of drug dealers in Dublin. A republican source in Dublin said reports that it was involved in vigilante activity were "nonsense and completely untrue".