A CRIMINAL arrested by gardai investigating the murder of Real IRA boss Alan Ryan was previously pepper-sprayed by officers in a bizarre driving incident.
During the incident in the Coolock area in October, 2011, the 26-year-old man was travelling in a car with crime boss 'Mr Big' who is suspected of organising Ryan's murder in Clongriffin, north Dublin.
The pair were pulled over by officers before the man in garda custody today started to act in a threatening and aggressive way and had to be pepper sprayed.
It is understood that the small-time thug from Darndale begged 'Mr Big' to help him, but the gang boss did not intervene and simply watched as his associate was brought to a north Dublin garda station.
"It shows just how much the gang leader cared – he just sat back as his mate screamed in agony," said a source.
Gardai arrested Mr Big's pal yesterday in north Dublin just weeks after he was released from prison where he had served a short sentence for road traffic offences.
He is in custody in Coolock Garda Station and is the fifth man to be arrested as part of the massive investigation into terror boss Ryan's murder.
Sources say that the 26-year-old had no involvement in the savage gangland slaying, but may have information about it because of his friendship with 'Mr Big'.
While he continues to be questioned today, it has emerged that a 24-year-old Donaghmede man who was picked up by detectives on Wednesday of last week was released over the weekend.
This suspect – who was released without charge – is considered a low level criminal who has a number of previous convictions including serving a small sentence for street-level crack cocaine dealing.
Sources say that he was a previous target for the gardai's Operation Boa – a special undercover operation led by detectives based in Clontarf and Raheny against street dealing on the capital's northside, particularly in the Kilbarrack area.
It is understood that a number of north Dublin gangs "clubbed together" to have Ryan murdered because of the money his mob was milking from them in extortion rackets.
Ryan (32) – who was shot dead in broad daylight as he walked in Clongriffin in September – had built up a fearsome underworld reputation for extorting money from some of Ireland's most dangerous drugs gangs.
Ryan was shot dead close to his Donaghmede home when two gunmen opened fire on him and one of his associates.
A car carrying what gardai believe were two gunmen pulled up and at least one of the passengers got out and started firing at Ryan and his pal Aaron Nealis, who was shot in the leg.
Ryan was hit a number of times, including as he lay wounded on the ground.
He was shot at least once in the head by the masked gunman, who then ran back to the waiting vehicle and was driven off at speed.
The Herald previously revealed that the gun murder was caught on CCTV.