By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Seven men suspected of membership of dissident Real IRA group are being questioned by Garda after a raid on a house in Dundalk, Co. Louth, at the weekend.

Gardai believe the men, who are between 20 and 50 and include a number of leading figures in the dissident group, were preparing to take part in a punishment beating.

The names of the apprehended were not released and no details of firearms that were seized at the scene were given by official Garda sources, but it is believed they include a handgun and a sawed-off shotgun and assorted ammunition.

A hammer, iron bars, balaclavas and paramilitary clothing are also being examined.

The men, who were arrested on Saturday night, are being questioned under Section 30 of the Offenses Against the State Act, which allows them to be held without charge for up to 72 hours.

A Garda spokesman said one man was being questioned in Dundalk. Two are being held in both Ashbourne and Navan in County Meath, and the remaining two are being questioned in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin.

Security forces’ penetration or surveillance of dissident republican groups have led to a number of large-scale arrests in recent months.

Last year, a large group of Real IRA suspects were arrested in County Meath and a group of suspected Continuity IRA members were held after a raid in County Limerick.

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