Real IRA suspects unmasked
Spotlight falls on accused as cops make arrests over soldier killings
Published 15/03/2009 | 13:02
This is the man accused of being behind a plot to import tonnes of weapons into Ulster for the Real IRA. Our main picture shows the man cops have accused of being the Number Two in the dissident republican organisation responsible for gunning down two soldiers in cold blood last Saturday night.
And he’s alleged to have been the mastermind in a plot to smuggle a huge arsenal of weapons into Northern Ireland from Eastern Europe to be used to unleash attacks on security forces.
Today Sunday Life shows his face for the first time.
Paul Anthony John McCaugherty was caught in an alleged MI5 sting in which it’s alleged he tried to buy handguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, rocket launchers and Semtex from undercover officers.
He’s a close pal of Lurgan republican Colin Duffy (41), who was arrested yesterday during swoops by cops investigating the murders of sappers Patrick Asimkar and Mark Quinsey.
Duffy was last night being questioned by detectives at Antrim Serious Crime Suite along with two others, including Declan McGlinchey (32) from Bellaghy, a son of the notorious INLA killer Dominic ‘Mad Dog’ McGlinchey.
McCaugherty is due before a District Judge later this month on three charges of conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition, conspiracy to possess explosives and membership of the Real IRA.
In an earlier court appearance it was alleged that McCaugherty (42) was the second-in-command of the terror group that last week launched its bloodthirsty attack on Massereene Army depot, killing two soldiers and injuring two more and leaving two pizza delivery drivers seriously ill in hospital.
He is also accused of making £18,000 available for the use in terrorism on February 2006 and also that he made the deeds of a restaurant at Alvor in Portugal available for the use of terrorism.
When Sunday Life tried to ask McCaugherty about his alleged involvement in the plot at his Lurgan home last week he refused to speak to us. But it is understood he is strenuously denying the charges.
He stands accused of conspiring with another Lurgan man, Desmond Paul Kearns, from Tannaghmore Green, to secure an arsenal of weapons for the Real IRA.
Kearns’ wife Alison has appeared in court alongside her husband accused of making property available for terrorists, but the charge against her was withdrawn last year.
A third man, Dermot Declan Gregory, aka Michael Dermot, (40) from Concession Road in Crossmaglen is also accused of making property available to terrorists, namely the restaurant in Alvor.
They were all charged after the alleged plot was blown open by the security services in June 2006.
The case against the trio is one of a number of recent and pending court actions that are being brought against those suspected of links with the Real IRA in a bid to disrupt the terror group’s escalating campaign of violence against the security forces.
Another high profile case involves one of the five ‘leaders’ of the Real IRA currently being sued by relatives of the victims of the Omagh Bombing, Liam Campbell.
Campbell is the target of extradition proceedings to Lithuania, where he is wanted in connection with another alleged arms smuggling plot involving dissident republicans.
Campbell (46) was remanded on bail last week after a hearing in the High Court in Dublin.
He is wanted in the Balkan state along with two other men; Brendan McGuigan (29) from Knocknagoran, Omeath in Co Louth and Seamus McGreevy (56), from Stamullen Road in Gormanston, Co Meath.
Campbell’s younger brother Michael is already being held in Vilnius where he was arrested in January 2008.
Michael Campbell (36) has been jailed overseas before.
In 2004 he was sentenced to four months in jail in the Netherlands after he was convicted in relation to shipment of smuggled cigarettes intercepted by Dutch authorities while being smuggled between north Africa and Ireland.
At the time he denied that the smuggling racket was linked to the Real IRA.
But security sources point to smuggling of cigarettes and fuel as the two main earners for the dissident gangs.
The Real IRA was believed to have been the intended beneficiary of a major haul of 15 million cigarettes that were smuggled into Northern Ireland in November 2005.
Last year two men — who have previously been alleged in court to be leading figures in the Real IRA — walked
free after admitting their involvement in smuggling and agreeing to hand over almost more than £600,000 in unpaid duties.
Noel Abernethy was ordered to hand over £129,000 for his part in the plot that was smashed following a joint police and customs operation.
He was also given a two-year suspended jail sentence.
Two years earlier Abernethy (39) from Dungannon was found not guilty at the end of a trial in which he was accused of the attempted murder of two police officers who were on duty at a polling station in Draperstown.
His trial judge Lord Justice Nicholson acquitted Abernethy due to uncertainties surrounding the reliability of forensic evidence involving a coat from which cartridge residues were recovered.
But, in explaining how he had to decide the outcome case on the criminal standard of proof, rather than the balance of probabilities, Lord Justice Nicholson said he was “virtually certain” that Abernethy had tossed a coat — that on which residue left by gunfire had been discovered — from the car in which he was travelling.
LJ Nicholson said: “I am virtually certain...that he was wearing the coat in the car on the road where he was eventually stopped. I am virtually certain that he caused the coat to be thrown out of the car.
“It is much more likely that he did this because he feared that there were CD residues on the coat and they were connected with the shooting at the school...”
Abernethy’s cousin Aiden Grew (52) was also heavily involved with his cigarette smuggling racket.
The pair were caught red-handed with the 15m cigarettes when premises near Coalisland were raided.
Grew, from Blackwatertown, has previously been accused in court in the Republic of being a member of the Real IRA, but the charge was eventually withdrawn.
In the mid 1980s he served a 15 year sentence for his part in an IRA landmine attack on UDR soldiers in Co Armagh.
Two of his brothers, Seamus and Dessie, were killed in separate alleged shoot-to-kill incidents by the RUC and the SAS respectively. Dessie Grew was one of two IRA men shot dead by the SAS near Loughgall in October 1990
Seamus Grew, a member of the INLA, was killed eight years earlier by the RUC’s Headquarters Mobile Support Unit in one of a series of controversial “shoot-to-kill” incidents.
In the wake of the cigarette smuggling trial, Grew was ordered to pay £500,000 with the threat of a three-year suspended jail sentence being imposed if he doesn’t pay up.