Belfast Telegraph

Auctioneer quizzed by gardai after sale of RPG launcher 'used by IRA'

An RUC forensics officer holds an RPG launcher in September 2000
An RUC forensics officer holds an RPG launcher in September 2000
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A Dublin auction house owner has defended selling a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher "used by the IRA" for €10,000 (£8,628) after he was quizzed by gardai.

The anti-tank weapon was exhibited as part of Whyte's Eclectic Collector sale on Saturday and fetched almost twice as much as the guide price.

"I understand why victims of IRA violence would be upset," Mr Ian Whyte said.

"But I also believe it is important to collect these weapons as reminders of the horrors of war and terrorism."

The auction house director - who came under fire last month from victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson who accused him of seeking to profit from terror - revealed he was questioned by gardai seeking to establish the history of the RPG.

A Garda spokesperson said officers who carried out the full investigation are satisfied the Bulgarian-made weapon was only advertised as being similar to the model used by the Provisional IRA during the Troubles. "It is not believed to have been used in that conflict," they added.

Mr Whyte, who previously told this newspaper he had "no idea" if the weapon was used by the IRA or not, also confirmed it was previously on view at the Roddy McCorley Historical Society museum in west Belfast.

"I answered questions over the phone and officers were ultimately satisfied that this weapon has never been used by the IRA," he added.

"I never claimed that it was."

The weapon was deactivated by the Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House in August 2013.

Whyte's website claimed "the RPG was used by the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1998" against British Army observation posts and military bases.

It also noted that Beechmount Avenue in Belfast became known as 'RPG Avenue' due to the number of attacks in the area.

Last night Mr Whyte, who has been in the business for over 50 years, said the sale included weapons "from 2,000BC right up until 2,000AD" including spearheads and axes.

"There were also lots of historical artefacts relating to the Home Rule campaign, the 1916 Easter Rising and the 1939 IRA proclamation," he said.

"A number of RUC riot gear items also sold for more than expected. I have always sold material from both sides of the divide and will continue to do so."

The inscribed Skulgarde helmet which once belonged to the RUC's controversial Special Patrol Gr oup sold alongside a gas mask and baton for €480 (£415).

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