Garda chief warns dissident Republicans pose ‘real threat’

DISSIDENT Republicans pose a “real threat” to police forces and innocent bystanders, according to Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy.

Commenting on the back of a bomb attack by the Real IRA in Co Down last Monday, the Garda chief said he was also concerned at increased activity by the terror group south of the border.

He said this included possible involvement in the murder of drug dealer Gerard Staunton in Cork city last January and the issuing of threats to drug dealers in Dublin’s south inner city.

The Irish Examiner revealed last week that the Real IRA was threatening drug dealers in the Rialto/Crumlin area and had daubed prominent graffiti threatening pushers in the large Dolphin House flat complex.

Security sources said the dissident group was trying to “muscle” its way into communities by latching onto local drug issues.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS) yesterday,

Commissioner Murphy said recent events in the North – including last Monday’s bombing near MI5 headquarters in Holywood – were “troubling and of great concern”.

He said the bomb that exploded outside a court house in Newry, Co Down, last February was the first bombing in some 10 years.

He said this posed a “real threat not only to police forces but also innocent bystanders”.

He said police agencies on both sides of the border had prevented a lot of incidents and that many dissidents were locked up here.

He said he would be joining Justice Minister Dermot Ahern in Belfast tomorrow for a meeting with Northern Ireland’s new Minister for Justice David Ford and PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

Mr Murphy said he was concerned also at the threat posed by the Real IRA in the south.

“There was an incident in the Dolphins Barn last week and we’re investigating a very serious crime, the most serious of all, the crime of murder, which happened in Cork city some months ago.”

He added: “We have an open mind in relation to who committed it, but we haven’t ruled out dissident Republican involvement.”

Commenting on AGS calls for more cases to be heard in the Special Criminal Court, Mr Murphy said this was a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

On AGS calls for more restrictions regarding access to jury details, he said Gardaí were working with the Courts Service and the Department of Justice on this matter.

He said around eight files on gangs were with the DPP at the moment to see if they could be charged under the new powerful gangland legislation.

“I would anticipate in the very near future prosecutions, but at the end of the day the final say on that is with the director,” Commissioner Murphy said.

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