12 March 2006

Bomb-maker thought to have fled to Newry

Sunday Times

**Via Newshound

March 12, 2006

THE former Provisional IRA bomb-maker suspected of manufacturing the M50 toll booth bomb fled his Dundalk home two weeks ago, writes Dearbhail McDonald. A leading suspect for the 1998 Omagh bombing, he is believed to be hiding in or near Newry, County Down.

Last year he was released from prison after being convicted in the Special Criminal Court of possession of ammunition. On his release, the convicted bomb-maker started selling his expertise as a freelance operative to dissident republicans and feuding drugs gangs in Dublin.

“He was high on a priority list of people to be lifted in connection with the M50 bomb,” said a garda. “He knew the net was closing in on him. He left home about two weeks ago, possibly afraid that he was going to be arrested, but also because he may be under threat from other republicans.”

Last December, gardai intercepted a primed bomb at the M50 near the Westlink toll bridge. It was recovered after detectives stopped a car.

The bomb-maker was identified following a detailed examination of the device, and gardai believe it was going to be used as part of an extortion racket involving the Continuity IRA.

Two weeks earlier gardai had seized a pipe bomb in a car near Dublin airport. The device was connected to magnets, which allowed it to be fitted to a targeted car. Containing a mercury tilt switch, it bore all the hallmarks of the bomb-making specialist.

He is believed to have handed over the bomb in a hotel car park in Drogheda. Police say it was intended for use against a former INLA leader in Dublin.

The dissident, a former regional officer of the IRA in the north, sought refuge in Dundalk, which has traditionally been a safe haven for republicans and on-the-runs (OTRs). The Newry native had previously gone into hiding in the republic in the 1980s after a fellow Newry and IRA man, Eamon Collins, became a supergrass for the former RUC special branch.

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