19 March 2006

Terror link to cannabis growing

Sunday Times

Dearbhail McDonald
The Sunday Times
March 19, 2006

TWO Real IRA (RIRA) bomb-makers were among those arrested last week in connection with a large-scale cannabis-growing operation.

The men, former associates of Michael McKevitt, the jailed leader of the RIRA, were caught loading about 600 cannabis plants onto a lorry from a disused mushroom-growing shed in Co Louth last Tuesday night. Four men, including the bombers, were arrested following the discovery of the cannabis-growing operation at Grange Bellew.

Gardai removed hundreds of cannabis plants from the shed as well as dismantling lights, heating and irrigation systems. Gardai in Drogheda say they broke up a large-scale production facility in a follow-up operation.

A senior officer investigating the case said: “The Real IRA leadership is furious. It doesn’t reflect well to be seen to be peddling drugs, and it was careless too; one of the men had just been released from prison.”

All four men were later released and a file sent to James Hamilton, the director of public prosecutions.

The “hash gang” are linked to veteran dissident republicans, including a former Provisional IRA bomb-maker suspected of manufacturing the M50 toll-booth bomb.

The terrorist, who now makes car bombs on a freelance basis for Dublin criminals, fled his home in Dundalk last month. Gardai also suspect him of manufacturing the M1 car bomb at Cloghran, Co Dublin.

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