Sixteen people have been arrested and three imitation guns seized in dawn raids following a Real IRA show of strength at the funeral of one of its key figures in the Republic.
Gardai believe that material seized yesterday in armed raids will boost their prospects of bringing charges against suspected dissident republicans. The raids followed the firing of a volley of shots by masked gunmen at the funeral of Real IRA boss Alan Ryan last Saturday.
Seventeen suspects, including a woman, were in custody last night following dozens of searches across Dublin and in counties Meath and Kildare.
Heavily armed officers raided houses and other premises at 30 locations and seized three imitation firearms, mobile phones, computers, literature and other documentation.
Most of the dawn searches were carried out on the northside of the capital, particularly around Donaghmede and Coolock, and in the city centre, where the weapons were recovered.
Other searches took place outside Kells, Co Meath, and in Naas, Co Kildare.
Those detained included Vincent, Anthony, Eoin and Dermot Ryan, who are brothers of the murdered man.
A senior officer said last night the seized items would help build up a case against a number of suspects, who could then face charges of membership of an illegal organisation in the Special Criminal Court, if there is sufficient evidence.
Detectives are now trawling through the computer files, documents and mobile-phone records to establish links between the suspects. Ballistic tests will also be carried out on the weapons.
Gardai said the information gathered in the raids would be added to the intelligence gleaned from a surveillance operation at the funeral on Saturday and added to files that had already been built up on some of the suspects.
Codenamed 'Ambience', the operation involved more than 200 gardai, including detectives from the Garda Special Branch, the Emergency Response Unit, local detectives, the dog unit and uniformed personnel.
Fourteen of the arrests were made in the first couple of hours and the rest followed throughout the day.
Officers said last night that further searches might be made, arising from an examination of the seized material and funeral footage.
Operation Ambience was ordered by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to investigate the firing of shots over Ryan's coffin as it was being taken from his family home in Donaghmede to the local church. It also covers what was described as other acts of criminality.
The investigation is being co-ordinated from an incident room at Clontarf station in Dublin and yesterday's searches are regarded as being significant for gathering evidence.
Those arrested range in age from 60 years to late teens and last night they were being held for questioning at garda stations in Dublin, Kildare and Meath.
They are being detained under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act and can be kept in custody without charge for up to three days.
Yesterday's was the biggest round-up of suspected dissident activists in the Republic for several years.
Meanwhile, a separate investigation is continuing into the brutal slaying of Ryan in Clongriffin last week. Gardai believe that he was shot dead on the orders of a crime gang operating in the capital.