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Frances Fitzgerald plays down security fears ahead of royal visit

NewsBy Sunday World
Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald

In the wake of the swoop on dissidents yesterday Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said that the country is prepared for any security threat.

After a major swoop rounded up terror suspects and led to the seizure of viable bombs and other explosive components, Frances Fitzgerald commended the Garda on their actions.

Six men remain in custody after the raids and arrests in three counties yesterday by detectives targeting dissident republican activity.

Ms Fitzgerald said the security of the state and that of any visitors would be protected.

"I expect Prince Charles will have a very positive visit here, and clearly the gardai (police) are alert to any security issues and will deal with any security issues that are arising," she said.

Garda sources say there is no direct link at this stage with the explosives and bomb-making finds to the four-day trip by Charles and Camilla, the couple's first official joint visit to Ireland.

A stop-off is planned during the itinerary at Mullaghmore in Co Sligo, where Charles' great uncle Lord Mountbatten was killed on August 27, 1979, when a remote-control IRA bomb blew apart his boat.

The 79-year-old - who was also the Queen's cousin - had a close relationship with Charles.

A major cross-border security operation is expected be ramped over the weekend ahead of the royal visit.

Some protests will be expected, as was the case during the Queen's ground-breaking four-day visit in 2011, but Ms Fitzgerald said most people will be glad to see the royal couple arrive.

"The vast majority of people in Ireland welcome the visit," she said.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander, has said the visit will be a "good thing" if it helps the process of reconciliation between former enemies.

Some 20 houses were raided yesterday as part of an ongoing Garda investigation into dissident republican activity in counties Dublin, Louth and Wexford.

Bomb-making equipment was made safe at Courtown, Co Wexford and Dromiskin, Co Louth.

Four men detained under suspicion of a number of offences, including directing terrorism, membership of an unlawful organisation and possession of explosives are still being held at a number of Garda stations in Dublin.

One of the suspects is in his 60s and the other three are all in their 20s.

They are being questioned under the Offences Against The State Act, and can be held for 72 hours.

Separately, a firearm and explosives were discovered at Glenfarne in Co Leitrim, around 25 miles from Sligo, when a car was stopped by a traffic enforcement officer.

Two men in their 20s arrested at the scene are also being held under the Offences Against the State Act, at Manorhamilton Garda station.

Army bomb experts said two improvised explosive devices made safe at the scene were viable.