Senior Real IRA man gets 20-year jail term

2 October 2010
Irish Times

THE SO-CALLED second in command of the Real IRA was yesterday jailed for 20 years for attempting to smuggle 104,000 of guns and explosives into Northern Ireland.

Paul Anthony John McCaugherty (44) from Beechcourt in Lurgan, Co Armagh, had sought the equipment for the Real IRA from an arms dealer who was a security services agent.

Jailed with him yesterday for four years was Dermot Declan Gregory (42) of Concession Road, Crossmaglen, who was found guilty of making a Portuguese property available for the purpose of terrorism. (The Panda Restaurant in Alvor, Portugal)

The pair were caught as part of a Secret Service sting operation, carried out by “role-playing” MI5 agents against dissident republicans to thwart their gun-smuggling plans. They were convicted after a non-jury 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, who once boasted it was his IRA branch who made up the Omagh bomb, showed no emotion as Mr Justice Hart said any attempt to purchase and 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 seven charges including IRA membership, conspiracy to possess guns and explosives and using and arranging money for the purposes of terrorism.

McCaugherty’s inventory of weapons included 100kg 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 disabling armoured vehicles.

He had proposed part-paying for the arms shipment by the sale of a Portuguese restaurant in Alvor, which was supplied by Gregory, rumoured to have been an MI5 agent himself.

Mr Justice Hart said he was satisfied at all times that McCaugherty “was acting as a senior and trusted member of the Real IRA”.

Later, when sentencing him to a concurrent 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”.

His defence Adrian Colton had argued that while McCaugherty may not have been entrapped, in the legal sense, by the agent known as “Ali”, he had been “enticed” into acting the way he had, and was therefore entitled to a reduction in sentence.

Mr Justice Hart, in rejecting this contention said that “McCaugherty’s admissions to Ali reveal that he has been an active and energetic terrorist for a considerable period of time, and one who was prepared to go to great lengths to obtain weapons”.

And in a stark warning to other dissident republicans, he warned: “Continued terrorist activity at the present time requires the courts to impose severe deterrent sentences in cases such as this.”

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