GANGS BRINGING IRA GUNS TO OUR STREETS; Weapons Trade between Criminals and Terrorists

Article excerpt

Byline: FIONNUALA BOURKE

THE IRA has disposed of the largest consignment of its weapons so far, according to the international decommissioning body.

But their report fell on deaf ears this weekwhen Unionists declared that they remained sceptical about the Republican commitment to disarm -and the Northern Ireland peace process collapsed once more.

But there IS evidence that dissidents are turning their attention and arms away from terrorism.

They are taking up serious crime instead.

A Sunday Mercury investigation has uncovered disturbing links between Midland gangsters and Irish terrorists. There are also signs of a growing trade in guns between the two factions.

Birmingham businessman Philip Deane was jailed for three years in the Republic in April after admitting supplying weapons and drugs to criminals in Ireland.

The father-of-two, from Handsworth, claimed he was forced into trafficking the illegal items by a gun gang in Birmingham who had linked up with crooks in Limerick. Since his arrest, the Irish authorities have had to keep the 29-year-old in solitary confinement because of threats to his life. His home in Green Hill Road, Handsworth, was fire-bombed and his partner and two children, aged three and five, had to go into hiding.

Irish police found a semiautomatic pistol, ammunition and a pocket torch converted to a gun when they stopped Deane's British-registered car on the outskirts of Limerick city.

But this is not the only case where arms deals have been struck between gangs across the Irish Sea.

Irish Justice Minister Willie O'Dea, who represents the Limerick area, said he knows of intelligence that shows dissident factions of the Continuity and Real IRA have been forging links with British criminals, including Midland gangs. …