Saturday 17 August 2019

Gardaí feared RIRA were planning to kidnap U2 manager

Paul McGuinness
Paul McGuinness

Clodagh Sheehy

The kidnap of former U2 manager Paul McGuinness was considered a possibility by gardaí who were keeping two Real IRA vans under surveillance.

Superintendent Martin Harrington told the MacLochlainn Inquiry that this was one of the possibilities discussed by members of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) as the vans were being followed.

Supt Harrington also denied to the inquiry that he or any other garda kicked a prisoner in the head during the operation.

The inquiry is examining the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting by gardaí of Real IRA member Ronan MacLochlainn (28), from Ballymun, Dublin, who died at the scene of a botched armed robbery near Ashford, Co Wicklow, on May 1, 1998.

Supt Harrington, a detective garda with the ERU at the time, described how the two vans were followed from Dublin to Ashford by the National Surveillance Unit, with back-up from the ERU. Vehicles belonging to the ERU met in the car park of Hunter's Hotel near Ashford at around 4.15pm on May 1 to discuss the operation but no one knew what was happening, he stressed.

Supt Harrington remembered one of the garda group, but he did not remember who, asking if there were any high-profile targets living in the area who could be kidnapped.

"Someone mentioned U2 manager Paul McGuinness. They thought he lived in the area," he said.

The superintendent denied to the inquiry that he or any other garda kicked a prisoner in the head as the terrorist lay handcuffed on the ground.

Supt Harrington said that when he arrived at the scene he pulled a masked man from a car and there was a violent struggle.

"He did suffer injuries and I brought him to hospital that night," he said.

Dara Hayes BL, for the commission, said the raider, Saoirse Breathnach, would give evidence to the inquiry that he was assaulted when he was on the ground.

He would say there had been no struggle to get him out of the car, that he got out himself and lay on the ground.

Mr Hayes also said a civilian witness would give evidence of seeing a man with a gun standing over a handcuffed man on the ground and another man coming over to kick the man who was on the ground.

Supt Harrington responded: "I absolutely did not lay a hand on him once he was on the ground. Once he was subdued, I stood guard over him. At no point when he was handcuffed did I put a boot on him."

Irish Independent

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