Foreign Policy

Real IRA's Paul McCaugherty Convicted of Trying to Buy Weapons

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Despite relative peace in Northern Ireland for over a decade, there are still "hard men" who would rather use a gun instead of a ballot box to unify British-ruled Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland in the south.

Paul Anthony John McCaugherty, a 43 year old who police say is the deputy commander in the dissident Real Irish Republican Army, has been convicted of trying to buy guns, explosives and armor-piercing weapons from undercover British agents, who posed as Middle Easterners during their sting operation.

Belfast Judge Anthony Hart, who heard an audiotape of McCaugherty stating his connection to the outlawed organization and asking for such equipment as plastic explosive and sniper rifles, ruled Wednesday that MI5's evidence against the Real IRA member was overwhelming. McCaugherty, from County Armagh, will be sentenced at a later date.

The case proves that despite power-sharing in the province between Catholics (many of whom would like to see a united Ireland) and Protestants (many of whom want to retain ties to Britain), there are those still willing to take up arms to ensure the Six Counties return to Irish rule.

The Real IRA broke from the Provisional IRA in 1997 over a philosphical difference in how to achieve a united Ireland. The Real IRA says it retains the right to use physical force and rejects the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.