Friday 24 May 2019

Armed Gardai to keep a watch on dissidents ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal visit

Prince Harry and Meghan. Photo: Getty Images
Prince Harry and Meghan. Photo: Getty Images
Armed gardai will be protecting Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (Photo by Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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Ken Foy and Conor Feehan

ARMED undercover gardai will protect Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their visit to Dublin this week amid fears of an attack.

Counter-terrorism units have been following the movements of prominent dissident republicans ahead of the visit.

Officers have been closely monitoring their emails and phone calls.

While there is no known plot, a major security operation will be in place when they arrive tomorrow at the start of their two-day visit.

Security sources said “overt and covert” protection will be in place at all times and that armed gardai will form part of that security.

Gardai are conscious of the IRA bomb plot to kill Harry’s father, Prince Charles, three years ago.


During a tour of Ireland in 2015, Charles visited the small fishing village of Mullaghmore in Co Sligo where his godfather, Louis Mountbatten, was killed in an IRA attack in August 1979.

Armed gardai will be protecting Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (Photo by Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Armed gardai will be protecting Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (Photo by Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Mountbatten (79), who was on holiday with his family, died when their fishing boat, Shadow V, was blown up as it left Mullaghmore.

Also killed were one of Mountbatten’s twin grandsons, Nicholas Knatchbull (14), and 15-year-old local boat boy Paul Maxwell.

31st December 1958: British Admiral of the Fleet and statesman Louis Mountbatten (1900 - 1979), 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, as chief of the defence staff. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

Another passenger, Nicholas’ grandmother Doreen Brabourne (82), died the day after the attack.

A successful garda operation prior to Charles’s 2015 visit led to the arrest of dissident republican leader Seamus McGrane (63), who planned to blow up the prince.

That plot was foiled due to intelligence gathered in the weeks before the visit.

In a similar operation, prominent dissidents have been monitored, including electronically, ahead of Harry and Meghan’s visit.

Security officers said the couple will be most at risk in public places such as Croke Park and the Famine Memorial on the Quays.

Such areas will be subject to security sweeps before the royal couple’s arrival, and armed detectives will mix with the public.

The increased surveillance and security would be regarded as standard protocol, as evidenced by the operation in which McGrane was convicted and jailed in 2017.

1Seamus McGrane arr (INT_ED5_S01) (Read-Only).jpg
Seamus McGrane is only the second person convicted of directing a terrorist organisation in Ireland

McGrane, of Little Road, Dromiskin, Co Louth, was convicted by the non-jury Special Criminal Court of directing the activities of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, between April 19 and May 13, 2015.

The court heard evidence from two audio recordings, from April and May 2015, of McGrane and Donal O Coisdealbha in conversation in The Coachman’s Inn on the Airport Road in Dublin – a pub that had been bugged by garda detectives.

McGrane issued instructions to O Coisdealbha to contact a person he referred to as the “motorbike man” to collect ingredients needed to make explosives.

He had also made statements about providing bomb-making material for others.

He was arrested six days before the planned attack.

Searches were conducted at McGrane’s home, a house at Harbour Court in Courttown, Co Wexford, and a locker at Maynooth University.


A “significant amount” of explosive material was found in these locations, said Ms Isobel Justice Kennedy.

The court found that McGrane discussed an operation involving explosives in the run-up to the visit by Charles.

He was also found guilty of membership of the IRA between January 2010 and May 2015.

Sentencing McGrane to more than 11 years in prison, Ms Justice Kennedy said that the bomb plot was “a most serious offence”.

Speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice after the sentencing, Det Chief Supt Tom Maguire of the Special Detective Unit (SDU) said it was a “very significant conviction” for An Garda Siochana.


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