3 suspected IRA dissidents charged with trying to smuggle arsenal into N. Ireland

23 June 2006
Associated Press Newswires

Three suspected Irish Republican Army dissidents, including a husband and wife, were arraigned Friday on charges of trying to smuggle weapons into Northern Ireland. Desmond Kearns, 41, his wife Alison Kearns, 37, and Michael Gregory, 37, were ordered held without bail until their next court appearance July 28.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Graham, a police officer who interrogated them following their arrest Monday, testified that all three were suspected of trying to smuggle a vast array of weaponry via Portugal and France into Northern Ireland. Graham said the weapons being sought included Kalashnikov assault rifles, sniper rifles, pistols, silencers, heavy machine guns and ammunition, armor-piercing weapons, plastic explosive, detonators, mines, rocket-propelled grenades and detonating cord.

Desmond Kearns faced two counts of seeking to acquire these weapons with the intent to endanger life. His wife was charged with inviting another person to acquire these weapons for terrorist purposes. Gregory was charged with arranging to use a commercial property in Portugal for storing the weapons. (Note: Alvor, Portugal)

None of the defendants issued a plea. All spoke in Belfast Magistrates Court only to confirm their identities.

Monday's raids involved more than 200 officers who searched eight properties in two Northern Ireland counties that border the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland police also helped French police to search an unidentified property in France. Police haven't said whether they found any weapons or other evidence of weapons smuggling at any of the properties.

Two dissident groups, the Real IRA and Continuity IRA, continue to plot attacks in Northern Ireland in defiance of the 1997 cease-fire being observed by most IRA members, who belong to the dominant faction named the Provisional IRA. That group last year handed over its weapons stockpiles to disarmament chiefs and declared it would not resume its campaign to overthrow Northern Ireland, which claimed 1,775 lives from 1970 to 1997.

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