A volley of three shots was fired in salute outside the home of Real IRA man Alan Ryan hours before he was buried yesterday. The funeral was the biggest show of strength in the Republic to date by dissident republicans.
Gardai were present at the funeral but did not intervene on two occasions when five men and two women, in combat uniform with masks and sunglasses, were surrounded and shielded by supporters.
On both occasions, at the door of Holy Trinity Church in Donaghmede and in Fingal cemetery, the colour guard in combat uniform were surrounded by dozens of people holding umbrellas and jackets.
They were further surrounded by hundreds of mourners who cheered loudly, though few could have seen if weapons were produced. The actions were very similar to the firing of volleys at IRA funerals during the Troubles.
On the first occasion at the church Chief Superintendent Declan Coburn, who is in charge of the Dublin Metropolitan Region North, was alone inside the church as the shield was formed around Ryan's coffin in the grounds outside. The area around the church was lightly policed.
When the dissident republicans repeated the exercise at the graveside Chief Superintendent Coburn was accompanied by the head of the Garda Special Branch, Chief Superintendent Kevin Donoghue. There was a much larger garda force at the cemetery, including armed officers, but again there was no intervention.
More than 500 mourners attended the Mass in Holy Trinity Church in Donaghamede. A substantial number of people with northern accents attended the funeral and the graveside oration was given by the Armagh dissident republican figure, Colin Duffy. Duffy, 44, was released from prison in February after charges of murdering two British soldiers, corporals Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar, who were shot dead in Antrim barracks in March 2009, were dropped.
Duffy described Alan Ryan as "a brave Irish republican and fearless IRA volunteer" who was dedicated to "fighting foreign interference in our country". Duffy also said that Ryan was under constant surveillance by "agents of the State", a reference to gardai. "But on the day of his death the agents of the State were conspicuous by their absence which is highly suspicious," he said.
As Duffy finished his speech, men at the graveside raised a large number of golf umbrellas forming a screen shielding the view of about 30 gardai who were standing about 50 yards away.
In the funeral Mass, Fr Eoin McCrystal, told the mourners: "All of us were shocked and horrified by Alan's death last Monday afternoon. Such an act of barbaric violence is abhorrent to all of us."
Gardai believe Ryan, 32, was directly responsible for two murders and was involved in widespread extortion aimed primarily at drug gangs in Dublin but also at innocent publicans. Gardai arrested a north Dublin man on Friday for questioning about one of the two cars used by Ryan's killers to escape after the murder on Monday afternoon. He is not a suspect in the murder.
Sources say that a north Dublin drugs gangs hired a professional assassin to kill Ryan after he robbed them of a large amount of cash earlier this summer.