RIRA roadblock furore
RIRA roadblock furore

The PSNI were forced to pull back after encountering a ‘Real IRA’ checkpoint in south Armagh this week, it has been confirmed.

Three masked IRA men carrying rifles stopped vehicles on the outskirts of Meigh in County Armagh at about 9pm on Friday, warning against drug-dealing and passing out leaflets.

Local residents said the roadblock north of the border at Belturbet in County Cavan was illuminated with flashing lights and was preceded by a large sign which read “BRITS FREE ZONE - I.R.A. CHECKPOINT AHEAD”.

PSNI Chief Hugh Orde described the checkpoint as “a stunt”, although local PSNI members were reportedly “furious” that they had received no intelligence warning of ‘Real IRA’ activity in the area.

“It doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened if the officers had driven straight into the trap,” said one.

Four unmarked PSNI vehicles were reported to have been on routine duty when they came across the roadblock in Meigh on Friday night.

Up to seven men dressed in combat unifoms and armed with at least two AK47 assault rifles and a hand-held grenade launcher were said to be involved.

They stopped motorists and handed out leaflets in the name of ‘Oglaigh na hEireann - the Real IRA’.

It is believed to be the first time that the dissident organisation has issued a document carrying the ‘Real IRA’ name.

Warning against ‘anti-social’ behaviour, the leaflet also stated: “Anyone passing information to the PSNI, Gardai, MI5 or Sinn Fein will be dealt with in the appropriate manner.”

The development follows reports the PSNI is no longer attempting to carry out normal policing functions in many border areas.

Last week, it emerged that 26-County Garda police had to deal with a road traffic accident across the border in south Fermanagh, a’no-go’ area for the PSNI due to the activity of IRA groups.

Local PSNI chief Graham Dodds admitted that a crash involving three motorbicycles outside Newtownbutler in County Fermanagh on July 19 was attended to by fire and rescue crew from Clones in County Monaghan, while Gardai supervised the operations.


However, Hugh Orde, speaking as he prepared to leave his post as PSNI Chief, said the threat posed by the Real IRA should not be exaggerated.

“This is not the Provisional IRA. This is not an organisation that is highly organised, highly capable and supported internationally,” he said.

Mr Orde said the PSNI patrol in south Armagh were right to pull back. “I’m absolutely convinced they took the right action when they came across it,” he said.

“This sort of activity will not put us off community policing and will not put the community off community policing,” he claimed.

However, Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Basil McCrea said “some hard questions” would have to be asked at the next board meeting about the incident.

“It is very important that we are seen to control all areas of Northern Ireland, that people do not get some idea that there’s areas that we can’t get into.

“In areas, particularly around the border where people feel vulnerable, they do need to have some sort of rapid response units to try and take control.”


Meanwhile, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, which is linked to the Real IRA, said it was “planning patrols on both sides of the border”.

It claimed it had broken up a gang “who were making life a nightmare” for people in Cavan, across the border from Fermanagh.

Around 25 republicans wearing black shirts emblazoned with ‘Fermanagh / Cavan 32 County Sovereignty Movement’ were said to be openly patrolling the streets in vulnerable areas.

They distributed leaflets warning that they “would not stand idly by while this community is attacked by anti-social elements led by sinister, criminal figures”.

A spokesman said six members of a leading drugs gang involved in dealing, assaults and thefts had been forced to leave the country.

The spokesman said the gang had been attempting to arm itself by stealing shotguns.

“It was a dangerous situation rapidly spiralling out of control,” he said. He warned “anti-social activity” still existed in Cavan and the sovereignty movement intended to “step up patrols” in the town.

“We’ll be making our presence felt. We’ll be on the streets to ensure that hoods aren’t let run riot. We’re also planning patrols in other Irish towns, on both sides of the border. If there is trouble, we’ll sort it out.”

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