Probe into death of raider in 1998

Published 26/07/2014 | 12:00

Minister Frances Fitzgerald

A commission has been set up to investigate the fatal shooting of a dissident republican in Ashford 16 years ago because inquires made by the Gardai, DPP and the Coroner's inquest were inadequate.

Real IRA member Ronan Mac Lochlainn was shot dead by Gardai in a failed attempt by a gang to hold up a Securicor van outside Ashford on May 1, 1998.

Speaking at an Oireachtas Justice meeting held last Wednesday, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said an experienced criminal lawyer will act as the sole member of the commission which was initially announced two weeks ago.

'Essentially the task of the commission is to decide whether the use of force by the Garda Siochana in this instance was proportionate. The investigations that were carried out by the Gardai, the DPP and the coroners; none were deemed to meet the criteria,' said Minister Fitzgerald.

The commission will be headed by a barrister and take about six months to complete at a cost of €350,000.

The investigation will focus on the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting and all relevant garda matters, including the policies, practises and control of the operation. Also under investigation will be the training provided to personnel who were detailed for the Garda operation.

The commission has been set up after Mac Lochlainn's partner, Grainne Nic Gibb, took a case against Ireland under the European Convention of Human Rights. She alleged a failure by the State to carry out an effective official investigation into the shooting, in accordance with the terms of Article 2 of the convention.

Minister Fitzgerald said that the State had 'admitted to a technical breach of the convention'. The case was struck out after the European Court ruled that a commission would meet Ireland's obligations.

Minister Fitzgerald added that there was a precedent for the State to pay the legal fees of any Gardai, retired or otherwise, who would be asked to give evidence to the commission.

Mac Lochlainn was shot dead after Gardai interrupted the hold up of a Securicor van on a day when most of the force were taking part in a 'Blue Flu' industrial action protest.

An inquest into the fatal shooting was held in 2009 and returned a verdict of guilty by misadventure.

During evidence at the trial it was revealed that initially the Gardai weren't aware the gang were going to try and rob the contents of the Securicor van, thinking instead that they were heading to Wicklow in an attempt to kidnap a wealthy, local farmer for ransom.

It wasn't until a Securicor van passed by that Special Branch detectives suspected that vehicle was in fact the intended target.

The gang was armed with an assault rifle, a pump-action shotgun and revolver, an imitation rocket launcher and an angle grinder for cutting through metal.

Bray People

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