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Thursday 22 August 2019

MacLochlainn Inquiry: Elderly couple describe how their coats were used to cover the body of dead IRA raider

Ronan Mac Lochlainn
Ronan Mac Lochlainn

Clodagh Sheehy

An elderly couple described how their coats were used to cover the body of a dead raider who minutes earlier had hijacked their car at gunpoint.

Patrick and Dorcas O’Neill told of their terror when the masked gunman “half jumped” across the front of their car which was halted in traffic.

Patrick said the man held the gun to his head shouting “get out of your car, I want your car”.

Minutes later Real IRA member Ronan MacLochlainn was shot dead by gardai at the scene of the botched robbery north of Ashford Co Wicklow on May 1st 1998.

His death is the subject of the MacLochlainn Inquiry which today heard evidence from the O’Neills.

Patrick said his wife had pleaded with the gunman saying her husband “has a heart condition, leave him alone.” He had a quadruple by-pass the previous year.

The gunman  “pulled me out of the car and pushed me on the ground. He jumped in and revved it up”, added Patrick.

Dorcas O’Neill said the masked man was wearing a balaclava and dressed completely in black apart from white shoes. He was wearing black woollen gloves and had a small gun in his right hand.

When he took her husband out of the car “I jumped out then because I knew he was for real”.

They had initially believed the traffic had stopped because of an accident ahead or even the possibility that someone was making a film.

Dorcas said she remembered hearing someone shouting “get down, get down” and herself and her husband got down in the ditch.

“I heard our car driving away.  I heard gunfire and the car stopping”.  She said the hijacked car at this point was “not very far away”.

A plain clothes female detective had brought the couple down the road and “as we were walking down the road there was more gunfire and she got down on the road with us”, said Dorcas.

“We had left our coats in the car. I asked for our coats but at that stage I could see our jackets were being used”.

Patrick explained he could see his coat being used to cover a man lying in the roadway.

He said they were both “extremely traumatised” by the events that had unfolded and had both needed counselling afterwards.

“I didn’t recover for a long time after. Recalling it now doesn’t help”, he added.

Social Care worker Alice Jackson broke down as she gave her evidence to the Inquiry.

She said she was on her way to Wicklow taking five children from a residential unit away for the weekend with a colleague.

Her colleague was in the car ahead of her with all the children when the traffic came to a halt near Ashford.

She heard “a tapping sound” which was gunfire.

As her colleague tried to do a u-turn she could see “a masked man coming towards us with a gun” and in the distance was “another masked man pointing a gun at a car about 40 yards ahead”.

She managed to do a u-turn and then her car was hit from behind by what turned out to be a garda jeep.

Ms Jackson said she contacted her workplace and as she did she heard that her colleague and the children were all safe.

Audrey Jameson said she was on her way home from work in heavy traffic which came to a stop short of the Cullenmore bends north of Ashford.

A woman drove by her shouting at her to turn back.  “I think she said it was a hold up or something”.

Ms Jameson said a man with a balaclava came towards her with his arms in the air and she hid her face in her hands because “I got a fright”.

In her statement she said she remembered looking in her car mirror a short time later and seeing a man on the ground with a number of people around him trying to assist him.

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