A LEADING dissident republican was shot dead in an ambush at a pub car park following an internal split within a new terrorist group.
Peter Butterly (35) was murdered yesterday outside the Huntsman Inn at Gormanston, Co Meath.
Gardai received an early break in the murder investigation when Special Branch detectives, who were nearby, immediately responded. They arrested five men in the area and recovered a firearm.
Four of the arrested men, all in their 20s, were attempting to flee in a car from the murder scene while the fifth person, in his 40s, was arrested at the pub.
Gardai are investigating the theory that Butterly was ambushed at the car park of the popular pub when he was shot dead.
Officers are satisfied that the murder of Butterly, a married father of three, is linked to an internal feud between dissident republicans.
A number of incidents have taken place in the Dublin area since the murder of Alan Ryan by criminals on the northside of Dublin last September.
Butterly (35) had been one of four leaders of the Real IRA before the group became part of a new IRA alliance, which was formed last summer.
Since then, Butterly, from Corrstown, Togher, Dunleer, Co Louth, had been marginalised by the leadership of the alliance.
It is believed he had been accused by the alliance of holding on to some of the cash that had been raised for the terrorist organisation through extortion and other "fundraising" activities.
At least two bullets struck a parked Renault Laguna vehicle during the gun attack.
Butterly collapsed from his injuries at the corner of the pub car park alongside a clothes bin.
Staff at the pub and restaurant were being questioned by gardai last night.
A neighbour living alongside the pub told the Irish Independent that he heard four gunshots.
"I was just getting out of my car here at 2.05pm and heard four gunshots," the neighbour said.
"You hear a lot of gunshots now and then with the nearby army camp, but these were a lot closer.
"We knew these shots were near us. A few minutes later it was all garda sirens," the resident added.
The murder is believed to be part of a purge by the new alliance leadership of Real IRA members.
Butterly was regarded by garda anti-terrorist officers as the leader of the Real IRA faction operating in the north Louth area.
In the past few months, garda intelligence gathered that he had been sidelined by the new IRA alliance, which includes former Provisional IRA activists, the Derry-based Republican Action Against Drugs and the Real IRA.
The alliance was responsible for the murder of prison officer David Black near Lurgan last October and for the foiled mortar bomb attack in Derry this week.
The five suspects were being questioned last night at a number of garda stations in north Dublin under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.
A full post-mortem examination on the victim will take place today.
Butterly was previously arrested after gardai made a number of significant seizures of explosives and weapons in that area in October 2010.
The haul included three kilograms of TNT explosives, a light purpose general machine gun, a sawn-off shotgun, pipe bombs, more than a dozen fully assembled detonators and bomb components.
The seizures were linked by gardai to what was alleged to have been a bomb-making factory in Co Wexford.
Butterly, who had no criminal convictions, was subsequently charged with membership of an illegal organisation.
The Special Criminal Court had heard that his arrest was part of an investigation into the alleged transportation of bomb components for assembly.
But after pleading not guilty, his trial collapsed as a result of a Supreme Court ruling that arrests carried out under section 29 of the Offences Against the State Act, were unconstitutional.
Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court was satisfied that gardai believed they were acting lawfully when they arrested Butterly in the back garden of his home.
But the Supreme Court ruling meant that the section used in the arrest was found to be repugnant to the Constitution.
Butterly was declared a free man by the court.