Gardai penetrate arms ring believed linked to IRA dissidents
*Ordinarily I never publish things written by Cusack, but I put this in just so you can see what is being printed
RALPH RIEGEL and JIM CUSACK
GARDAI have cracked an arms and drug importing operation by the notorious Dundon-McCarthy gang in Limerick - who are believed to have been involved in supplying guns to dissident republicans trying to disrupt peace in the North.
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As three men were arrested in hotels in Cork city on Friday night, the cells of Wayne and Dessie Dundon in Wheatfield Prison were raided simultaneously, and mobiles seized.
A woman was also arrested yesterday in connection with the arms find and was being held at Mayfield Garda Station in Cork.
The Garda Special Branch, National Surveillance Unit, Emergency Response Unit and local detectives seized high-powered weapons including two rocket launchers, and a large amount of cash in rooms at the Ibis and Rochestown Park hotels in Cork.
Three men, two of them brothers in their 20s from Cork and another from Tullamore, Co Offaly, were arrested under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act and are being questioned.
The Dundon-McCarthy link to dissident republicans has been a major cause of concern in recent times, as the dissidents are mounting a campaign to upset the historic political agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein. The Friday night operation came after months of planning and surveillance by gardai who have again struck a vital blow against those trying to undermine the peace in the North.
Gardai were working in close co-operation with European police forces and Interpol who helped track the movement of weapons along routes established by the Provisional IRA and continued by the dissidents.
The seizure also represents one of the largest single weaponry recoveries from criminal elements since the crackdown on subversives in the Eighties and Nineties.
The haul of more than a dozen weapons ranged from fast-firing 9mm automatics through to high-powered heavy calibre revolvers, plus an AK-47 assault rifle and two RPG-7 rocket propelled grenades. Several weapons were capable of being modified to full sub-machine gun status - and gardai admitted the firearms offered "appalling capabilities" in the wrong hands.
The arrested men were brought to the Bridewell and Togher Garda Stations where they can be questioned for up to seven days.
The Sunday Independent understands that the arrest followed months of surveillance in Cork, Dublin and Limerick as well as detailed intelligence from overseas police agencies.
The three men - all of whom are between 24 and 35 - were arrested by armed gardai as they allegedly attempted to complete the purchase of weaponry.
As the trio were taken into custody, gardai then recovered a significant quantity of firearms in related searches.
Last night, a Garda spokesman hailed the operation as a tremendous success.
"This matter was subject of a Garda operation over an extended period. The focus of the operation was the importation, procurement and availability of firearms to those involved in organised crime. While this operation focused primarily on the southern region, particularly Cork and Limerick, the organised crime networks targeted stretch much further," he said.
"A number of searches were carried out in Cork and Dublin over the course of the last 24 hours, which resulted the arrests mentioned earlier."
The weapons were brought to Angelsea Street Garda headquarters and will later be shipped to Dublin for forensic and ballistic analysis.
Detectives want to try to determine the precise origin of the weapons - though it is understood a number have had their serial numbers filed off.
In the past two years concern has been growing about the links between criminals and the dissidents who have been supplying gangs with bombs in return for firearms and cash. Wayne Dundon is serving a 10-year sentence for threatening to kill a barman in 2004. His brother Dessie is serving life imprisonment for the murder of gang rival Kieran Keane in 2002. Both have continued to direct their gang from prison using mobiles smuggled into Wheatfield.
The Dundons are also being investigated for links to the murder of Baiba Saulite, the Latvian mother-of-two who was shot dead at her home in Swords last November.
Gardai believe Baiba was murdered as a result of a deal done between another prisoner in Wheatfield and the Limerick gang linked to the gang formerly led by Martin 'Marlo, Hyland who was shot dead on December 12 last.