Real IRA man jailed for 20 years

1 Oct 2010
Irish Times

A leading dissident republican was has been jailed for 20 years for attempting to smuggle weapons and explosives into Northern Ireland.

Paul McCaugherty (43) from Lurgan, Co Armagh, was convicted of a string of offences at Belfast Crown Court related to the elaborate two-year undercover sting operation carried out by MI5.

Ruling in the non-jury trial, Mr Justice Hart said the case against the senior Real IRA member was “extremely compelling”.

McCaugherty, a 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.

He was also found guilty of obtaining a restaurant in Portugal with the intent of selling it off to fund the dissident movement.

His co-accused, Dermot Declan Gregory (41), from Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, was also convicted of that charge. He was jailed for four years.

During the trial, the court heard from an MI5 agent known only as Ali who posed as the arms dealer in a series of meetings with McCaugherty throughout Europe between 2004 and 2006.

McCaugherty agreed to pay the agent €104,000 for 100kg of plastic explosives, 20 AK47 assault rifles, 10 sniper rifles, 20 handguns and 20 rocket propelled grenade launchers.

He had handed over almost €50,000 in three deposits and arranged for the non-existent cache to be brought to Cherbourg in France before his arrest in June 2006.

Secret video and audio recordings of these meetings taken by the Security Services formed a key element of the Crown case.

McCaugherty showed no emotion as Mr Justice Hart said today that 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”.

Sentencing Gregory, Mr Justice Hart told said “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”.

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