Gardai believed IRA gang were planning to derail peace process
GardaÍ believed an IRA gang may have been planning a bomb attack aimed at derailing the peace process on the day Ronan MacLochlainn was shot dead.
The Real IRA activist, from Dublin, was fatally killed by members of the Garda's Emergency Response Unit, during a botched attempt by a six-man gang to hold up a Securicor van, near Ashford in Co Wicklow on May 1, 1998.
The van was transporting around IR£300,000 in cash from Wicklow to Dublin.
MacLochlainn was part of a Real IRA gang which had been under watch by members of the garda national surveillance unit.
This culminated in an operation - codenamed 'Morrison' - which involved members of the Emergency Response Unit and the Special Branch.
On the second day of public hearings by the MacLochlainn Inquiry in Dublin yesterday, former Assistant Commissioner, Dermot Jennings, said while he was aware of MacLochlainn through intelligence, gardaí were not following him that day, and were instead following Paschal Burke, a convicted member of the Provisional IRA.
He said it had become clear to them that Burke had defected to the Real IRA.
Gardaí were monitoring the gang on the day in question because of a van linked to Burke.
"Once Paschal Burke was on the move, the aerials went up. He was an important guy," he said. "It was at a time when we had real concerns that people from the Provisional IRA were moving into this new organisation known as the Real IRA.
"With his convictions for terrorist activity in the late 80s, he was naturally a very important target for us. He defected to the Real IRA. The aim of this new organisation was to wreck the peace process.
"That was clear in some of their many attempted, and some successful, bombings that they carried out. In the mind of this group, McGuinness and Adams were traitors to what they called 'the cause'."
He told the inquiry the "main thrust" of their activities were bombs.
He said that these bombs were "made for one reason - that's to kill and murder".
He said the force had no specific information on any crimes being planned, and "didn't know what was going to happen" on the day in question, so they had to "build the pieces through association".