Dissident republicans: Irish police warn of increasing threat as they display seized weapons
Dissident republican paramilitaries are becoming increasingly skilled at making bombs, Irish police have said as they displayed a sample of seized weapons.
The haul included a beer keg bomb, a number of rockets, AK-47 rifles, semtex explosives, handguns and ammunition.
The weapons were all seized by members of the Irish police force (An Garda Síochána) over the last two years.
They said they have had "significant success" in disrupting attacks, aimed mainly at targets in Northern Ireland.
Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Mahoney said the beer keg bomb was found about 400m from the Irish border and was "ready for use in Northern Ireland".
The device was discovered in Kilcurry, near Dundalk in County Louth, in May 2014.
"I can say with confidence that our interventions and arrests have, without doubt, saved lives," Mr O'Mahoney said.
"Just in the last two years we have over 30 firearms seized, over 1,000 rounds of ammunition, a number of mortars, a number of rocket launchers.
"I suppose one very significant find [in 2014] was in County Dublin where we had a significant seizure of semtex explosives."
Over the course of last year, 31 people were arrested in the Republic of Ireland on suspicion of dissident republican paramilitary activity, 22 of whom were charged at the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin.
Mr O'Mahoney said that over the past five or six years, his force had seen "a steady and a gradual rise in the activities of dissident republicans" and said their methods were "becoming more sophisticated", particularly their bomb-making capacity.
"When you look at some of these devices, the way that they are operated, it shows an increasing sign again of sophistication in relation to engineering."
He also said that Irish police had foiled potential dissident republican attacks ahead of Queen Elizabeth's visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011 and the visit of Prince Charles last year.
"On both occasions we had significant disruption in relation to planned attacks," he said.
The assistant commissioner said there was evidence that dissident republicans in the Republic of Ireland were providing support for attacks carried out in Northern Ireland, with funding from organised crime such as drug dealing and extortion.
"The individuals planning, supporting and perpetrating these attacks carry out their preparation both within Northern Ireland and in this state," he said.
"While the attacks themselves rarely manifest themselves in this jurisdiction, An Garda Síochána continues to devote, on a daily basis, significant resources to tackle this problem."
He warned that dissident republican paramilitaries continued to pose a real threat to life, particularly to members of the security forces in Northern Ireland, and appealed to the public to report suspicious activity to the police.
He added that his officers are in daily contact with their counterparts in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and said there was "excellent" co-operation between the two forces in combating dissident republican violence.
"We have a shared objective to help protect all people on this island and we take this responsibility very seriously.
"Our commitment to countering the threat posed by these dissident republicans is continuous and necessary," Mr O'Mahoney said.