Men jailed over arms smuggling plot

1 Oct 2010

Two men were have been jailed after a dissident republican gun smuggling plot was uncovered by an MI5 sting operation.

Paul McCaugherty, 44, of Lurgan, Co Armagh, was found guilty of attempting to import weapons and explosives and given 20 years. He sought the equipment for the Real IRA from an arms dealer who was a security services agent.

Dermot Declan Gregory, 42, of Crossmaglen, was found guilty of making a Portuguese property available for the purpose of terrorism. He was sentenced to four years.

Mr Justice Anthony Hart at Belfast Crown Court told McCaugherty: "Any attempt to purchase and import such a large amount of weapons and explosives for terrorist purposes must be regarded as exceptionally serious because of the potential for murder and destruction on a large scale."

Home Secretary Theresa May warned last month that the threat from dissident republicans was substantial and urged public vigilance.

The head of MI5 said earlier that dissident republicans could attempt to mount a new wave of terrorist attacks on Great Britain.

Jonathan Evans, the director-general of the security service, said there had been a "persistent rise" in "activity and ambition" by dissident groups in Northern Ireland over the past three years.

As he was led away, a muscular and shaven-headed McCaugherty raised one arm to friends and family in the heavily-guarded courtroom. He showed no emotion as he was sentenced.

The court heard he set out to purchase a substantial quantity of weapons and explosives in Europe on behalf of the Real IRA.

He was introduced to a person he knew as Ali who he believed was a genuine arms dealer but in reality was an MI5 agent.

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