The men, who were not identified, were arrested in Morecambe in Lancashire as part of a joint operation involving the gardai and British police forces in Lancashire, Yorkshire and London.
Those being held, who are all believed to be British but with Irish connections, are being transferred to London for questioning by officers of the Metropolitan Police’s anti-terrorist branch.
Two of the men, aged 35 and 44, were arrested by armed police in a warehouse in the White Lund industrial estate in the resort town of Morecambe on the northwest coast of Britain. The third, who is 48, was arrested in a vehicle nearby.
“Three firearms were recovered, two handguns and a rifle,” according to a garda statement.
A spokesperson for Lancashire police said the arrests were part of an intelligence-sharing operation among the police forces.
She said the firearms had been sent to London for technical examination.
Gardai said the investigation involved criminal activity in Limerick and the activities of dissident Republicans and the Continuity IRA.
The discovery of terrorist-type weapons in Limerick — where a number of local gangs have been engaged in a vicious feud — has been causing concern to gardai. Machine guns have been seized and it is believed they were supplied to one of the Limerick gangs by Continuity IRA activists. Booby trap bomb devices have also been uncovered in Limerick and there have been unconfirmed rumors that one of the gangs is now in possession of a grenade launcher.
The Continuity IRA is a hard-line breakaway faction that split from the mainstream Provisional IRA and began launching attacks after an abortive 1994 ceasefire. Its members have been working with the other more recent breakaway group, the Real IRA, that split from the Provisional IRA during the peace process negotiations that led to the Good Friday agreement and the now suspended power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland.
The Continuity IRA is the only republican dissident group to have never called a ceasefire.