Infiltration has left New IRA desperate for weapons
The high level infiltration of the New IRA by the intelligence agencies has left them compromised, paranoid and with barely any weapons, a source within that organisation has revealed.
So desperate were the group to acquire new weapons that they were planning to kidnap a former IRA member they believed had access to guns, and hold him hostage until he handed them over.
The plan to confront the Co Tyrone ex-IRA prisoner was discussed on recordings made by MI5 in two houses that had been provided by agent Dennis McFadden.
Announced in 2012 as a merger of the Real IRA, vigilante group RAAD and a number of independent republicans, the New IRA soon ran into difficulties.
After a number of thwarted operations and clashes over leadership positions, key figures from Tyrone walked away, taking with them large quantities of weapons and bomb making equipment.
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Since then they have lost almost all of the original weaponry in the hands of the terror group.
In 2013 the New IRA smuggled six AK-47 rifles into Belfast. Two were recovered following an attack on a police patrol passing the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.
In December 2017 a third AK-47 was found in bushes at the car park of Belfast Zoo on the Antrim Road.
McFadden is thought to have provided information that led to a number of weapons seizures by the PSNI.
A fire, bizarrely claimed to have been started accidentally, destroyed almost all the weapons retained by the organisation in Belfast.
The fire in November 2018 destroyed two more AK-47 rifles, two sawn-off shotguns, a high-powered rifle with a silencer fitted, three pipe bombs and more than 100 assorted rounds of ammunition.
It was claimed at the time that the fire had started accidentally in a boiler in the St James' area of west Belfast.
Seizing the guns would have led straight to not one but two agents, it was suspected that the fire was started deliberately at the behest of the intelligence agencies to take the deadly weapons out of circulation, without compromising their informants.
A number of people were under suspicion as a result, but McFadden never came into the picture.
His knowledge of the arms dump came indirectly through 'loose talk' by Belfast members of the New IRA who he regularly drank with.
McFadden is thought to have also passed on information about a mortar bomb left near a police station in Strabane last September.
Police claimed the device was found by a resident on a wall overlooking the station, but the New IRA had been watching the area and knew this not to be the case.
Searches carried out in the Cooley Peninsula last March recovered a mortar, explosives, two firearms and a sizeable quantity of ammunition of various calibres. Gardaí were tipped off about the weapons dump after an agent in the north passed on details.
However, the biggest indication that the organisation was compromised came after a bomb was found under a serving police officer's car at a Belfast golf club.
In a statement claiming the attack, the organisation said the bomb contained a mercury tilt switch, which is motion activated and normally requires a sudden movement to trigger an explosion.
"We are confident the device would have exploded if it was not for the level terrain it had travelled on," the group claimed.
However, the terrain was far from level and the officer had driven over six large speed bumps from his home to Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast. The New IRA knew that the bomb had been tampered with at some stage but failed to identity the agent in their ranks.
So desperate were the organisation to acquire new weapons that they made a deal with a disgraced member of Oglagh na hEireann.
That organisation had declared a cessation of activity but did not decommission any weapons.
Eyebrows were raised in republican circles when the man was appointed into the leadership of the New IRA, given his questionable past.
He had previously left Belfast and was living in Strabane believing his life was under threat from ONH.
He told the New IRA he could could supply 100 men and dozens of weapons in return for his membership and their protection.
In the end he managed to provide a handful of men and just three guns which make up almost all of the Belfast New IRA arsenal.
In June of this year the PSNI revealed a gun found in Derry was the weapon that killed Lyra McKee in April 2018. The low calibre Hammerli X-Esse pistol was stolen in a robbery in Fermanagh some years before.
Sources say the decision to keep the gun rather then dispose of it, knowing it was wanted in such a high profile investigation, was proof that the organisation have no weaponry to spare.
A source within that organisation told the Irish News, "there's f*** all left, the cupboards are bare".
"Guns that were handed over by long standing republicans, which were effectively on loan, are all gone, captured or burnt in mysterious fires.
"The reputation for losing gear is as damaging is as the s**t show over McFadden, it's finished, everyone knows it but no one will say it", he added.