THE two chief suspects behind the murder of Real IRA leader Alan Ryan have been arrested in Northern Ireland.
And in a bizarre twist, the suspects, aged 46 and 30, were detained in a rented apartment block where three PSNI officers were also living, putting their personal security at severe risk.
The two men were arrested on Monday morning during a dawn raid in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, by detectives from the PSNI’s Serious and Organised Crime Branch backed up by a specialist entry team from the service’s Tactical Support Group (TSG).
During a search of the rented apartment, detectives are understood to have seized a large amount of documentation.
This included forged documents, including driving licences and passports. They also confiscated over £50,000 in cash.
It is believed the two north Dublin criminals, who are well known to Gardai in the Republic, were in the process of “drying and cleaning” the damp and dirty cash which may have recently taken out of an underground hide.
The two pair have been on the run since last Septembe following the gangland murder of Real IRA boss Alan Ryan.
He was a member of the Real IRA’s ‘Army Council’ and the terror group has vowed to avenge his murder.
Since then both men have been living under a death threat, flitting between addresses in the Republic, Northern Ireland and Spain.
The 46-year-old is currently on the run from Gardai.
Last year, a warrant was issued by the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin for his arrest of after he failed to appear in court on a number of serious revenue offences brought by the Republic’s Revenue Commissioners.
Now that he is in custody in Northern Ireland, Garda headquarters in Dublin’s Phoenix Park is preparing legal papers for his extradition to the Republic to stand trial on the revenue offences.
According to reports in Dublin, the two criminals were living in rented accommodation next door to where three serving PSNI officers were also living.
A review of their personal security will now be carried out by the PSNI to see if their security has been compromised and advised to seek alternative accommodation.
Celtic player Anthony Stokes was disciplined last month by his Glasgow club for attending a benefit night in memory of murder Real IRA chief Alan Ryan.
Belfast Daily in December that the Dublin-born striker was photographed at the memorial party commemorating 32-year-old Ryan.
He was shot dead in Dublin in September in a feud with a criminal gang.
A bar owned by the Stokes family hosted the event, during which a band played ‘The Ballad of Alan Ryan’.
On the day of Ryan’s funeral, Stokes wrote “Thinking of you Alan…” on his Twitter account, which led to death threats.
Celtic boss Neil Lennon said: “I am not going to moralise to him, but you cannot damage the reputation of the club.”
However, he did not detail how the incident involving the Ireland international had been handled, but said disciplinary action had been taken.
He said: “We spoke to him. He is aware of that now. It has been dealt with internally.”
Lennon said he believed Stokes had damaged Celtic’s reputation but thought the 24-year-old player had learned from the incident.
Ryan, 32, was the head of the Real IRA in Dublin was gunned down in broad daylight, and a volley of shots was fired at his funeral. It is alleged his faction was behind extortion rackets in the city.
Stokes signed a four year deal with Celtic in August 2010, after spells with Sunderland, Arsenal and Falkirk. He earned his first international cap for the Republic of Ireland against San Marino in February 2007, but has been out on injury since July.
The 24-year-old player was snapped at the Dublin benefit in honour of Alan “The Model” Ryan, who was killed in a street execution in September.
The pair are said to have known each other for years through Ryan’s association with the Players Lounge Bar in Fairview, Dublin.
The bar is owned by Stokes’s dad, John, who was also at the party.
The photograph shows Stokes posing with his arm draped around a woman in a gold dress.
A source said: “Anthony seemed very much at home. He was in great form, fairly relaxed and was clearly enjoying himself and enjoying being home.
“He’s very down to earth and very friendly to everyone when he’s back here.”
Stokes’s brother Michael, 27, is a former guitarist in republican band The Players Brigade.
He did not attend the party but his former band played and sold a tribute CD featuring a song called The Ballad of Alan Ryan at the event.
The song includes the lyrics: “We vow to carry on his work/ we will follow in his lead/ we will find out where those gangsters lurk/ we will avenge their cowardly deed.”
Elsewhere at the party, revellers were invited to buy raffle tickets but a source said it was unclear what money was being raised for.
Gardai said leading republican dissidents from both sides of the border were there, including a number suspected of involvement in the murder of Northern Ireland prison officer David Black.
Ryan, 32, was the leader of the Dublin brigade of the Real IRA – one of the breakaway groups opposed to Northern Ireland’s peace process. He is believed to have been responsible for two murders in the last two years.
He has strong links to John Stokes, 54, whose bar has been at the centre of violence and controversy in the past.
Three men, including a doorman, were gunned down outside the bar in July 2010.
Stokes snr was ordered to remove a 40ft banner barring the Queen from his pub during her visit to Ireland last year. He said he reluctantly agreed after police threatened to object to his application for late licences.
In August last year, the pub was gutted in a fire allegedly started by robbers.
Gangland enforcer Ryan was gunned down outside his home in Dublin in September.
His killer fired six shots from a Glock handgun, hitting Ryan in the chest. As Ryan struggled to get to his feet, the gunman calmly stood over him and blasted him twice in the head.
Onthe day of his funeral in Dublin, Stokes jnr wrote on Twitter: “Thinking of you Alan…”
Men and women in paramilitary-style uniforms marched behind the hearse and shots were reportedly fired. The events were condemned as “reprehensible and absolutely unacceptable” by Irish justice minister Alan Shatter.
Stokes began his senior career with Arsenal but first played in Scotland with Falkirk in 2006.
After moving to England and flopping at Sunderland, he came back to Scotland when Hibs signed him in August 2009. He moved to boyhood heroes Celtic shortly after the start of the following season, for a fee of around £1.2 million.
Stokes has been out of action with an ankle injury since July.
Two days before the Ryan party, he tweeted: “Ankle feeling good, hoping to start some very light jogging nxt week!!”