Monaghan assault rifles part of Michael McKevitt RIRA haul

Gardaí continue to search an area in Scotstown, Co Monaghan where weapons and explosives have been recovered. Picture by Philip Fitzpatrick

ASSAULT rifles seized in Co Monaghan are among several hauls of weapons syphoned off by former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt and buried in sealed silage tanks after he split from the Provisionals in 1997.

The AK47s were among arms discovered at Scotstown on Wednesday, less than half a mile from the Fermanagh border near Roslea, in an intelligence-led Garda operation which began last week.

As well as the rifles from the Provisionals IRA's former arsenal, handguns, mortars, detonators and other bomb parts were also found.

The handguns are believed to be newer weapons acquired by the leadership of the Real IRA after the split from the Provisionals, dispelling speculation that the arms dump was part of a forgotten haul that was overlooked for decommissioning.

In recent times the guns fell under the ownership of the merger group calling itself the 'IRA', made up for former RIRA members and other independent republicans.

An informer in the ranks of the merger organisation, a man who in the past flitted between groups, is believed to have led gardaí to the weapons dump, which is one of the largest uncovered for many years.

Michael McKevitt, of Blackrock in Co Louth, was convicted in 2003 of directing terrorism and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

He distanced himself from the RIRA while in jail and is no longer linked to any dissident or political grouping.

In May of this year he was temporarily released to have a cancerous kidney removed. He has since been returned to Portlaoise Prison.

A 43-year-old man was arrested in the Scotstown area on November 25 as part of the same Garda operation and appeared before a special sitting of the Special Criminal Court on Saturday.

Jim Smyth, with an address in Aghalissabeagh, Scotstown, has been charged with IRA membership and remanded in custody.

He was due to make a bail application yesterday but it was put back until next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, three men have been arrested by PSNI detectives from the serious Serious Crime Branch investigating dissident republican activity.

A 44-year-old man was arrested in Pomeroy, Co Tyrone, a 37-year-old was held in Toomebridge and a 38-year-old man arrested in the Lisburn area and taken to Musgrave Street station in Belfast for questioning.


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