By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — A rocket launcher, detonators and bomb-making equipment were discovered in a concealed arms cache by elite gardai units involved in ongoing operations against suspected dissident republicans.
The find was made on the Dublin-Meath border on Monday and followed a major operation in the area that resulted in the discovery of an underground bunker and the arrest of a group of 10, including a 14-year-old boy, who were inside.
Chief Superintendent Michael Finnegan described the find as "very significant." He said the shoulder-held rocket launcher appeared to be Russian-made and said police had also found 40 electronic detonators and a quantity of ammunition.
"There are also a number of other items which we, at this stage, believe to be bomb-making equipment," Finnegan said.
He described the rocket launcher "as a very formidable weapon." When they were used in the past, similar launchers had "enormous consequences."
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Finnegan said he was "fairly satisfied" the finds were connected to the so-called Real IRA. The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the Omagh bombing in August 1998 that killed 29 and injured more than 200.
The latest find was made in a derelict building at Stamullen Road, Gormanstown. Finnegan said he was satisfied it was connected with the discovery of an underground bunker last Wednesday.
The bunker was set up as a training facility and firing range concealed in an old wine cellar below the ruined Herbertstown House near Stamullen.
"Other searches will be carried out and further arrests may take place depending on what our investigations reveal," he said.
The new arms-cache discovery and the charging of seven men with firearms offenses after the bunker raid are the latest and most effective blows against alleged republican dissidents.
The group that emerged from the red brick lined bunker included three teenagers, one a 14-year-old. Found below ground was an AK47 assault rifle, a CZ 9mm submachine gun and CX pistol and ammunition.
In the past, underground training bunkers including firing ranges have been discovered south of the border.
In one, a tunnel made out of old tires was used for shooting practice. The tires acted as a silencer, muffling the sound of the firing.
The latest raids are part of a renewed campaign since Oct. 5 against dissidents that has seen 26 suspects taken in for questioning under Section 30 of the Offenses Against the State Act. This allows them to be held for 72 hours without charge.
Three of the men charged after the bunker raid are from Dublin: Anthony Ryan, 24, Grange Abbey Road, Donaghmede; Jon McDonagh, 34, St. Oliver’s Park, Clondalkin, and Stephen Kelly, 17, of North Clarence Street.
Two are from Louth: Seamus McGrane, 45, Little Road, Dromisken, and Damien Lawless, 35, Nicholas Avenue, Dundalk.
The others are Martin Conlon, 29, Railway Street, Armagh, and Seamus McGreevy, 46, Stamullen, Gormanston, Co. Meath.
Files on three others, including the 14-year-old, have been sent to the DPP.