NCA insists no paramilitary link with Jerrettspass arms transport
The National Crime Agency (NCA) insisted there was no evidence linking a significant weapons discovery last week to paramilitary groups.
The comments came amid speculation that the huge cache belonged to loyalists.
A photo that emerged on social networks this weekend of masked and armed men participating in a show of force.
It was reported that the image was taken in Co Armagh in an area near Jerrettspass, where the weapons cache was found by the NCA.
The transport included an assault rifle, machine guns, handguns and ammunition, which were contained in two waterproof bags buried in the ground.
The find has been described as the “largest” in the north for a decade.
The grainy image posted on social media appears to show several masked men carrying guns.
It has not been established exactly when the photo was taken, although it has been claimed that it was taken in recent weeks.
In the photo, which appears to have been taken at night, a man can clearly be seen holding what is believed to be a long barreled weapon.
Other members of the group appear to be holding guns as well.
The image has emerged as tensions around the Northern Ireland Protocol continue to rise and in recent weeks protest parades have been staged across the north, including in Co Armagh.
Some reports have linked the find to Ulster Resistance, which is known to have had a strong presence in parts of the county.
The group reportedly shared a cache of loyalist weapons smuggled into the north with help from British intelligence in the late 1980s.
Although many weapons were subsequently recovered, it is believed that the bulk of those held by Ulster Resistance have never been recovered.
The NCA was created in 2013 and its primary role is to target organized crime.
In a statement released last night, the agency said there was no evidence to link the recent discovery to paramilitary groups.
“At this stage of the investigation, we do not have any evidence suggesting a link with dissident or loyalist groups and are satisfied that this seizure falls within the jurisdiction of the NCA in matters of serious and organized crime,” said one spokesperson.
“However, it is important to note that the investigation is ongoing.
“If there are any developments which indicate a link, then the relevant authorities will be notified.”