MINISTER for Justice Alan Shatter has declined to comment on reports gardai in Limerick have foiled a plot by dissident republican criminals to assassinate a soldier in the British Army while he returned to his family in the city this Christmas.
But the minister did say that the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan had confirmed to him that there was “an ongoing operation in Limerick aimed at the activities of a certain group”.
He was responding in the Dail to Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins who raised the matter of the failed plot by criminals aligned to the Continuity IRA to kill the soldier – who is aged in his 20s and from Limerick city – at a function over the holiday season. Gardai in Limerick have declined to comment on this Tuesday’s revelations in the Irish Independent.
Deputy Collins said the plot had come to light when gardai arrested a number of individuals in Limerick who had attended the funeral in Dublin of Real IRA leader Alan Ryan in September.
While the Continuity IRA and Real IRA have traditionally detested one another, some elements are said to have coalesced in recent times, presenting a serious security risk on either side of the border. Limerick has long been seen as a stronghold of the Continuity IRA – which is linked to Republican Sinn Fein.
Deputy Collins said that had the plot to kill the soldier not been foiled by detectives it could have caused “extreme reputational damage to Limerick and the mid-west” in terms of inward investment and tourism at a time when gardai were winning the battle against organised crime in the city. The so-called republican groupings, he said, had “no political ideology” to speak of and rarely looked beyond their next crime, which he said included pimping, prostitution, fuel laundering and piracy.
Minister Shatter agreed that gardai in Limerick had had major successes, noting there had been only one murder recorded to date this year where previous years had seen “multiple homocides”.
But he declined to comment on any plot to kill the Limerick soldier, saying TDs should “exercise caution” when referring in the Dail to garda operations which may be ongoing.
While he had been informed by Commissioner Callinan of such an operation in Limerick, he said it “would not be helpful to go into the details” or to comment on the number of arrests that may have been made.
It is believed that over a dozen arrests were made in Limerick as part of the investigation in recent weeks, with files being prepared for the DPP.