Belfast Telegraph

Oglaigh na hEireann is now the main threat

By Tom Brady

The self-styled Oglaigh na hEireann group has provided the most serious terrorist threat in Northern Ireland over the past year.

It is regarded by police on both sides of the border as the most dangerous of the three main dissident republican groups.

It has about 50 activists and has been attempting to boost its ranks by a recruitment campaign North and South while also stepping up its efforts to purchase arms and develop its skills in manufacturing homemade bombs.

The seizures on Tuesday night and early yesterday morning amounted to a major blow by the police in the Republic against its engineering unit and follow-up inquiries may lead to further successes.

Oglaigh na hEireann is a faction of the Real IRA and remains loyal to Michael McKevitt, who founded that breakaway gang after a rift in the leadership of the Provisional IRA over the peace process following a row at a meeting of its “army executive” in Falcarragh, Co Donegal, in October 1997.

The Provisionals had been formed out of a split with the Official IRA in the 1970s and it was inevitable that the Real IRA would divide into two organisations after a row between McKevitt and his former director of operations, Liam Campbell.

McKevitt is no longer a key military figure, as he is serving 20 years in Portlaoise jail after his conviction for directing a terrorist organisation.

But a former trusted aide, now in his mid-fifties, has control of this faction. He operated alongside McKevitt in the early days of the Real IRA and served a sentence in Portlaoise for terrorist-related offences. The faction's main stronghold is in north Louth and south Armagh.

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