Ireland arrests dissidents

IRISH police said today they had arrested several dissident republican suspects and an Irish-born convert to Islam ahead of historic visits by Queen Elizabeth II and US President Barack Obama.

The arrests come as Ireland prepares to roll out a major security operation for the first visit by a British monarch since independence, followed by Obama’s trip to see his Irish roots.

Police said that as part of an investigation of “threats to kill or cause harm” they searched a house in Dublin yesterday and arrested a man in his 40s.

Police refused to comment on media reports that he is an Irish-born alleged al-Qaeda sympathiser who is being questioned about remarks in an article in a Sunday newspaper describing Obama as an enemy of Islam.

Under Irish anti-terror laws, he can be questioned for 72 hours without charge.

The queen, who begins a four-day visit on Tuesday, will be surrounded by extremely tight security following the murder of a policeman in British-ruled Northern Ireland last month.

A number of dissident republican suspects have been arrested in the Republic in recent days.

Four men were held in Youghal, County Cork, in the south of the country, on Thursday. They are being questioned under anti-terror laws after ammunition was found in a car.

At a commemoration in Northern Ireland last month a masked member of the Real IRA dissident group condemned the queen’s visit, accusing her of “war crimes”.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter told the Irish parliament that a pipe bomb explosion that scorched a monument to the Duke of Wellington, a British military hero, in Trim, County Meath on April 21 “may have been some sort of atavistic response” to the announcement of the queen’s visit.

“Opposition to Queen Elizabeth’s visit is the response of a tiny minority of people,” Shatter said.

Police said the VIP visits will involve “substantial security operations”.

They warned that in addition to road closures and extensive traffic restrictions there would be “periodic searches of pedestrians and vehicles” at key locations.

Adding to the Irish authorities’ security headache, British Prime Minister David Cameron will also visit Ireland during the queen’s visit.

Obama is due in Ireland the following week when he will meet the Irish president and prime minister and visit the town of Moneygall from where one of his ancestors, Falmouth Kearney, emigrated to the US in 1850.

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