Tuesday 23 January 2018

Bloody scene was too 'fraught' to preserve straight away, inquiry into killing of Real IRA raider hears

Former member of the Garda ERU described the chaotic day to MacLochlainn Commission

Ronan Mac Lochlainn
Ronan Mac Lochlainn

A chaotic scene with people screaming, shooting and cars turning left and right and a was described by a former member of the Garda Emergency Response Unit to the MacLochlainn Commission today.

Retired Detective Inspector Patrick Hogan was describing the fatal shooting of Ronan MacLochlainn (28) from Ballymun during the course of a botched Real IRA robbery 17 years ago.

The incident happened at an area known as the Cullenmore Bends near Ashford, Co Wicklow.

Responding to questions about why the scene had not been immediately preserved by gardaí Mr Hogan explained that at the time of the fatal shooting the scene was “pretty fraught”.

“First aid was being given” to the victim.

“People were emotional. There was a lot of blood”.

Mr MacLochlainn died at the scene from a single shot to the chest. 

Mr Hogan was questioned as to why vehicles from the Emergency Response Unit had been used to transport prisoners from the scene instead of being kept there and the scene preserved.

He said he would be “surprised if they were not used”.

There were 30 people at the scene who were not gardaí.

Six people were arrested but at the time they had “no idea how many people that terrorist organisation had at the scene on that day.”

As far as he was concerned it was a live scene and his priority was the safety of the public, and the transport of prisoners.

He told how he was in the last car of a convey of three garda vehicles travelling towards the scene at Cullenmore bends outside Ashford.

They had decided from surveillance information that a Securicor van was the likely target.

Up to the point that they heard guns were being pointed at members of the public, he said they could have disengaged from the operation.

“I think at that stage we were certainly in a mode to do an intervention”

The three garda vehicles travelling in convoy had lost sight of the Securicor Van at the time they were told what was happening.

Mr Hogan said they pulled out of the line of traffic and accelerated towards the scene

As they arrived the garda jeep at the head of the convoy hit a car being used by the raiders and knocked it out. 

The car spun around and the jeep stopped a short distance away.

He saw four people running up the road in dark clothes and balaclavas. “We didn’t know who was who”.

Mr Hogan said he essentially had five people running after the four and this was “not a very good tactical option.”  

The preferred option was to have two people for each raider.

At the scene he recalled the injured driver of the Mazda car which had been hijacked, being taken from the car and placed on the ground.

He said there was force used to take other raiders out of the ditch and put them on the ground.

ERU vehicles had been used to transport these prisoners but he could not recollect which cars were used.

“I dont mean to be flippant.  At this point in time I was searching for prisoners, the scene was live”, said Mr Hogan.

He said the operation had prevented the Real IRA from gathering £300,000 that day from the security van.

The Commission was set up after Mr MacLochlainn’s partner Grainne Nic Gibb took a case against Ireland under the European Convention on Human Rights alleging failure on behalf of the State to carry out an effective official investigation into the shooting.

The hearing continues.

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