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Crony of terror boss Michael McKevitt among four held after big explosives seizure


Sentence: Michael McKevitt

Sentence: Michael McKevitt

Sentence: Michael McKevitt

Police in the Republic say the anti-terror operation that resulted in the arrests of suspected dissident republicans and the seizure of a large a haul of explosives is one of the most significant for several years.

Among those detained is a senior republican activist who is alleged to be the leader of the most dangerous faction of the Real IRA.

Senior officers are now seeking the go-ahead to press charges of directing terrorism against the prime suspect.

The Co Louth man is a former key associate of Michael McKevitt, who is currently serving a 20-year sentence for a similar offence.

McKevitt, who was co-founder of the Real IRA, was the first dissident to be charged and convicted of the offence, which was introduced in the wake of Omagh bombing in August 1998.

The suspect has IRA-linked convictions dating back to the 1970s and more recently received a substantial sentence from the Dublin Special Criminal Court after the Irish Special Branch swooped on a Real IRA training camp. If charged with directing terrorism, he will become only the second person in the Republic to face the offence.

Gardai have stepped up surveillance of dissident republicans as they prepare for the visits of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla next week.

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One officer said: "The finds and arrests dovetailed nicely with the increased security for the royal visits but were not directly connected with it as the operation was planned well in advance and resulted from ongoing inquiries into the activities of dissidents along the border."

Four men were arrested including the son of a former prominent Provisional IRA activist.

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