Irish Republican News · September 12, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Secret Garda unit behind ‘shoot-to-kill’ incident


A woman who witnessed an alleged shoot-to-kill incident in 1998 in County Wicklow was later visited by senior gardai and told to “stay quiet”, a commission of investigation into the fatal shooting has been told.

Care worker Aisling Gray told a public hearing of the Commission of Investigation into the shooting dead by Gardai of 28-year-old Dubliner Ronan Mac Lochlainn that she was terrified when two detective chief superintendents called to her home.

She had witnessed the Gardai open fire on members of the breakaway Real IRA after they attempted to raid an armoured cash transit van in the middle of holiday traffic. One of the men, Mr Mac Lochlainn, hijacked another vehicle in an attempt to escape, but crashed. He was shot in the chest by armed Gardai, removed from the vehicle and handcuffed. He later died at the scene.

A Garda statement released after the incident stated that the shooting of Mr MacLochlainn was “necessary” as the Gardai had “come under fire”. However, it subsequently emerged that no weapons were discharged by the men involved in the raid.

The Dublin government last year agreed to set up a commission of investigation, under Mary Rose Gearty SC, which began public hearings on Tuesday.


The Commission was told this week that the operation in which Mr Mac Lochlainn died involved the top-secret ‘National Surveillance Unit’ (NSU), a heavily armed Garda unit which were not known to the public and at the time. The Commission was told its job was to identify ‘defectors’ from the Provisional IRA and keep ‘subversive targets’ under surveillance.

The vehicles driven by members of the NSU in the ambush were subsequently removed from the scene, and their involvement was not revealed to subsequent investigators.

Ms Gray told the Commission that she outlined her concerns over the killing of Mr Mac Lochlainn in a letter to her then local representative Ivor Callely, then a Fianna Fail TD. In response, Gardai came to her door and ordered her to stay quiet about the matter.

“They told me I was lucky to be alive, that the people involved were the same people who did the Omagh bomb,” she said of the meeting.

“I was terrified, I felt very intimidated. I was on the couch and they seemed to be towering over me.

“They told me they hoped they wouldn’t be hearing any more about the incident. They said, ‘We’re not going to hear any more about this, are we?’”


The visit to her home came in August 1998, three days after the devastating Omagh bomb attack by the Real IRA in which 29 people lost their lives. It later emerged that state forces on both sides of the border had tracked the progress of the bomb to its destination, but coded telephoned warnings by the Real IRA somehow failed to clear the area around the device.

Ms Gray told the Commission that she had written to Mr Callely because she was concerned about a number of matters that had unfolded on the day of the ambush in County Wicklow. In her correspondence, Ms Gray said she had heard that the Gardai knew of the Real IRA’s plans well in advance, but allowed it to proceed.

An official report drawn up recording the visit said Ms Gray had been told that the Gardai had no prior knowledge of the planned heist, and that she had been offered victim support.

Ms Gray said she recalled neither discussion. She said she was given very little assistance by gardai present, despite caring for five children who then ranged in age from two years to 12 years.

An inquest into Mr Mac Lochlainn’s death was held in 2009 and returned a verdict of “guilty by misadventure”.

In 2010 the dead man’s partner, Grainne Nic Gibb, took a case against the 26 County state under the European Convention on Human Rights alleging a failure on the part of the State to carry out an effective investigation into the shooting.

Her legal team said it was important to note that the inquiry beginning today would not be taking place without the action she had taken to the European Court of Human Rights.

Her counsel also said that even now she has still to receive confirmation that all of the relevant evidence and documents have been disclosed by gardai.

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