Irish police have seized weapons hidden in a wooded area near the border with Northern Ireland. Police on both sides of the border have expressed concerns of nationalist attacks if customs posts return after Brexit.
Police said their investigation into the cache of ammunition found in woods in the Omeath area on the Cooley Peninsula could continue into Saturday.
"During the searches to date Gardai (Irish police) have recovered a substantial quantity of ammunition of varied caliber along with a mortar tube (pending examination by Garda ballistics experts)," the police said in a statement on Friday.
"A Garda operation is currently underway in Co. Louth as part of ongoing investigations targeting the activities of dissident Republican groups," police confirmed.
The material found appeared to be "in working order," according to Garda sources. Police requested the assistance of the army's bomb disposal unit.
Disruption and attacks
There are concerns the weapons were being stored in the Republic for use in Northern Ireland by dissidents aiming to attack security forces and cause disruption.
Two weeks ago there was a car bomb explosion outside a courthouse in Derry. The New IRA claimed to be behind that attack.
On Friday night in Derry, two men were shot in what police described as "paramilitary-style attacks."
Brexit and the border
Germany's justice minister, Katarina Barley, visited the border area on Friday and emphasized the importance of an open border to Ireland: "Only when the UK has guaranteed an open border to Ireland, can there be an agreed Brexit," she wrote on Twitter.
With the UK due to leave the EU next month, there are concerns it may depart the bloc without a deal in place. This could mean a return to some form of control stations along the long and winding border between the EU state of Ireland and the UK province of the North.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to alter the draft withdrawal agreement her government negotiated with the European Union, most especially concerning the backstop clause. This is an insurance policy in the Brexit negotiations to ensure the border remains open in the event that the two sides cannot reach an agreement. Under those circumstances, Northern Ireland would remain within the European Union's regulatory and customs arrangements indefinitely.
jm/bw (Reuters, dpa)