IRA reported rearming as Castlereagh burglary denied

The IRA has continued to build up its arsenal despite its two acts of decommissioning, according to a newspaper report today

The IRA has continued to build up its arsenal despite its two acts of decommissioning, according to a newspaper report today. Meanwhile, the organisation has denied being involved in the St Patrick's Day break-in at Castlereagh Special Branch offices near Belfast.

An IRA source also denied the organisation was targetting people in the North adding that its ceasefire was intact and that it posed no threat to the peace process.

However, news today that a number of high-powered rifles were bought by the IRA sometime over the past two years has intensified the recent pressure on Sinn Féin.

The IRA source told RTÉ Newsthat it believed British intelligence was behind the break in and that subsequent arrests were a "smokescreen". Top secret Special Branch files with information on informants were taken in the raid.


The republican movement has been under increased pressure after it was accused of the break-in and the discovery on Friday of an apparent IRA intelligence file containing details on Tory politicians and other figures in the North.

Pressure for Sinn Fein to be removed from government office in Northern Ireland has also grown following a British newspaper report saying the IRA had been secretly buying weapons while publicly decommissioning.

The Sunday Telegraphreported that IRA chiefs bought a consignment of high-powered new Russian special forces rifles in Moscow late last year.

The purchase, which would breach the Belfast Agreement, was believed to have taken place some time between the IRA's first act of decommissioning and its second recent destruction of what was described as a substantial amount of ammunition, guns and explosives.

The Russian security services were said to have detected the deal and passed details to British military intelligence in London.

The report said the IRA had bought at least 20 of the AN94 weapons, which are capable of firing 1,800 rounds a minute and of piercing body armour.

Meanwhile, a top republican in County Tyrone has been questioned about the murder of a Catholic taxi driver near Dungannon on Wednesday night.

Ulster Unionist MP Mr Jeffrey Donaldson said he had been briefed on the Russian arms affair and if accurate it meant the IRA was "in clear breach of the Good Friday Agreement".

He said: "I think the Government and the other parties have to urgently consider the position of Sinn Fein/IRA and their role in the Northern Ireland Executive."

Mr Martin McGuinness and Ms Bairbre de Brun could not hold office in the current circumstances, he said.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) refused to comment on the report about the Russian arms. A spokeswoman said: "This is speculation and we don't comment on speculative stories."