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Gardaí during a dig for weapons in Omeath last month, Garda Press
hard brexit

Dozens of dissident weapons caches 'dotted along border region'

Gardaí fear an upsurge in violence in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

GARDAÍ POLICING THE border region suspect that dissident republicans have “dozens” of makeshift weapons caches dotted along the border. 

The news comes after a significant quantity of munitions were found in Omeath, on the Cooley Peninsula, earlier this month.

In that find, a substantial quantity of ammunition was discovered along with a mortar tube.

Gardaí received intelligence in the weeks before the search that significant munitions had been placed along the peninsula.

The operation was led by members of the Garda Special Detective and Emergency Response Units. No arrests have been made at this time.

That find is linked to the so-called New IRA – a splinter group which gardaí and the PSNI believe is in the process of unearthing weapons stored in remote areas along the border.

As we move closer to the possibility of a no deal Brexit, gardaí believe certain elements of the dissident community are unearthing caches of weapons which have been buried in a number of locations across the region for a number of years.

Dozens of areas are suspected of being utilised in this way but police on both sides of the border need concrete evidence before a dig for munitions is launched. 

Gardaí are also in the process of drawing up a list of suspected dissidents who could become active in the wake of a hard border. The suspects’ names, addresses, places they frequent and their associates are being compiled in the event of further dissident related incidents. Gardaí are also continuing surveillance operations on more than 100 people they believe are involved in directing dissident activity across Ireland.

There are a number of people who have admitted they are worried that any sign of a hard border will see a return of violence to the region.

Former Chief Constable of the PSNI, Hugh Orde, warned about the risks of a border leading to a resumption violence in the area.

Brexit risk

Orde said recreating a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would have “huge consequences in terms of security” and police and customs officers “would become a target”.

“There is no way that I can see to have a soft border unless you have equality in terms of customs and freedom of movement,” he said. 

Orde added that it would not be possible to put cameras or technology on the border without police, or some other form of security to protect them.

James Morrisroe, who represents gardaí in the Cavan/Monaghan division for the Garda Representative Association, compared the possibility of a hard border post-Brexit to the foot and mouth and BSE crises.

“At the time of the foot and mouth crisis, they would have had a large number of gardaí on temporary transfer from all over the country to cover all the border crossings, of which there are a lot, on minor roads and major roads in the Cavan/Monaghan division,” he said.

There would probably be the most border crossings in the country in the Cavan/Monaghan division. It’s a huge resource issue, you wouldn’t have the resources locally if you had to man all the roads if it was a hard border.”

He said with the number of gardaí in the country at the moment, the temporary transfer model would not work long-term and would be costly for the State.

“You would have to increase the number of gardaí in Cavan/Monaghan – I’d say you’d have to double them at least on a permanent basis, so that has its own implications.”

British soldiers on the streets

Increasing numbers of specialist troops have been deployed to the North in recent years in response to a resurgent dissident threat under a new strategy known as Operation Helvetic. 

Tom Clonan, a security analyst, explained to last week that these troops include highly trained explosive ordnance disposal officers and the Special Reconnaissance Squadron of the SAS, which acts in support of MI5 and the PSNI in countering the threat posed by dissident republicans, in particular the New IRA. 

Said Clonan: “All of the political discussion has been about law-abiding people, people exporting and importing. But Brexit would create a huge opportunity for non-law abiding people, for criminal elements. Because if we become a European Union frontier then there will be opportunities there for the movement of illegal goods, contraband goods, illegal substances, drugs, people… It will open up all sorts of stuff and the organised criminal elements on this island are very organised and they are very well armed.

“Groups like that have very, very close links to both dissident armed loyalists and republicans – those links are already there and they’re well documented. So the criminal element will use nationalist and loyalist rhetoric to ramp up the tension.”

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