Paul McCaugherty / Dermot Gregory
2 October 2010
Michael Donnelly

Dissident chief guilty of £90k gun smuggling plot

THE Real IRA's second-in-command was yesterday jailed for 20 years for attempting to smuggle £90,000 of guns and explosives.

Sent down with Paul Anthony John McCaugherty, 44, was 42-year-old Dermot Declan Gregory who was handed a four-year term.

The pair were caught as part of a MI5 sting codenamed Nare and Liburna, carried out by "role-playing" agents against dissident republicans.

They were convicted after a Diplock trial at Belfast Crown Court in June heard from the MI5 agents, described as "Covert Human Intelligence Sources", who outlined the sting operation which ran from August 2004 to June 2006.

McCaugherty, 44, of Beechcourt in Lurgan, Co Armagh, who once boasted it was his unit who made the Omagh bomb, showed no emotion as Mr Justice Hart said any attempt to import a large amount of weapons "must be regarded as exceptionally serious because of the potential for murder and destruction on a large scale".

In all the taxi-driving married father of two was convicted of IRA membership, conspiracy to possess guns and explosives and using and arranging money for terrorism.

McCaugherty's shopping list included 100 kilos of plastic explosives, 20 AK47 assault rifles, 10 sniper rifles, 20 handguns and 20 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and several arm-burst launchers capable of taking out armoured vehicles.

He'd proposed part paying for the arms by the sale of a Portuguese restaurant in Alvor. That was supplied by Gregory, a mechanic, from Concession Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, who was rumoured to have been an MI5 agent.

Described as one of the dissident's money men, he was convicted of making the restaurant available for the purposes of terrorism.

Mr Justice Hart told him:

"Money is the life-blood of any terror organisation and anyone who makes property available to a terrorist organisation helps that organisation further its objectives of murder and destruction, and the punishment must reflect this."

Mr Justice Hart said he was satisfied McCaugherty "was acting as a senior and trusted member of the Real IRA".

He added: "Continuing terrorist activity at the present time requires the court to impose severe deterrent sentences."

Later when sentencing him to the maximum of 10 years for membership, the Belfast judge added that while such a sentence should normally be reserved for leading terrorists, "it is abundantly clear .... McCaugherty did occupy such a position".

Defending Adrian Colton argued that while McCaugherty may not have been entrapped, in the legal sense, by agent Ali, he had been "enticed" into the offence, and was entitled to a reduction in sentence.

Mr Justice Hart, in rejecting this contention said:

"McCaugherty's admissions to Ali reveal that he has been an active and energetic terrorist for a considerable period, and one who was prepared to go to great lengths to obtain weapons".

This, added the judge, was evidenced from the fact he made "numerous trips to meet Ali to destinations as far apart as Amsterdam, Bruges and Istanbul".

Turning to Gregory, the judge said he did not believe his intentions were in providing the restaurant to the RIRA were not as alturistic as McCaugherty may have thought.

Mr Justice Hart said he was satisfied while his efforts "were significant it was his intention to use the RIRA to retrieve his property", albeit he was prepared to pay them a substantial sum.

He added: "It cannot be easily quantified how much they would have benefited by this exercise, but it would have been a substantial amount of money.

Mr Justice Hart also ordered the forfeiture of almost £43,000 given to Ali by McCaugherty, who like Gregory is to appeal.

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