Pair jailed for Real IRA arms plot

Paul Anthony John McCaugherty and Dermot Declan Gregory

1 October 2010
UTV News

Paul Anthony John McCaugherty, 44, from Beechcourt in Lurgan Co Armagh, was jailed for attempting to smuggle €104,000 of guns and explosives into Northern Ireland.

His co-accused, Dermot Declan Gregory, aka Michael Dermot Gregory, 42, from Concession Road, Crossmaglen, Co Down, will spend four years behind bars.

The pair were caught as part of a Secret Service sting operation code-named Nare and Liburna, carried out by "role-playing" MI5 agents against dissident republicans to thwart their gun-running 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 which claimed the lives of 29 people, including unborn twins, 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 shopping list 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 taking out 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, a scrap-dealing motor mechanic, and rumoured to have been an MI5 agent himself.

'Money Man'

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

Mr Justice Hart told Gregory that "money is the life -blood of any terrorist 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 at all times that McCaugherty "was acting as a senior and trusted member of the Real IRA" and was attempting to obtain weapons "in his capacity as a leading member of the RIRA, and the sentence must reflect these factors".

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 ....that McCaugherty did occupy such a position".

Mr Justice Hart said despite his determined efforts to get weaponry, it was true that there "was never any prospect of McCaugherty obtaining these weapons because the entire operation was a carefully contrived sting".

His defence QC 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".

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".

However, Mr Justice Hart said he was prepared to "make some allowance" given the unjustifiable delay in bringing McCaugherty to trial, and because at his trial a "great majority of the anonymous witnesses were agreed".

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

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 once the operation was completed.

"It cannot be easily quantified how much they would have benefited by this exercise, but it would have been a substantial amount of money on any showing," said the judge.

Mr Justice Hart said, since he did not think Gregory would have been as generous as supposed, he sentenced him "on the basis that he intended to benefit substantially from the RIRA's effort on his behalf".

However, he declared that: "Nevertheless this was a serious offence. "Money is the life blood of any terrorist organisation, and anyone who makes property available to a terrorist organisation helps that organisation further its objectives of murder and destruction, and the sentence must reflect this".

As part of his sentencing Mr Justice Hart also ordered the forfeiture of almost €50,000 given to Ali by McCaugherty, who like Gregory has already lodged an appeal against their convictions.

0 Responses to "Pair jailed for Real IRA arms plot"
Return to top of page Copyright © 2010 | Flash News Converted into Blogger Template by HackTutors