Commissioner defends Garda handling of Ryan funeral

Tue, Sep 11, 2012, 01:00

GARDA COMMISSIONER Martin Callinan has rejected criticism of his officers for failing to intervene when shots were fired at the funeral of murdered Real IRA member Alan Ryan on Saturday.

Mr Callinan said it was not the case that dissident republicans had been allowed to act with impunity. The Garda had a proud track record in combating dissident republican activity, he said.

He expressed disappointment that agreements made between the Garda and the organisers were not abided by.

A number of mourners at the funeral wore full paramilitary gear, which included military-style jumpers and combat trousers, scarves covering their faces, dark sunglasses and black berets.

Three shots were fired at Ryan’s house before his remains were taken to the funeral Mass.

Mr Callinan, speaking last night on RTÉ radio, indicated that the response of gardaí at the funeral was influenced by the fact that members of Ryan’s family, neighbours and other onlookers were present.

He said the chief superintendent in charge did try to intervene but was prevented from dealing with “other issues” because of safety considerations.

“We’ll be pursuing every avenue of inquiry, and where criminality has been highlighted we will prosecute those responsible,” he said.

While Ryan’s murder has led to speculation about possible retaliation by members of the Real IRA, Mr Callinan urged anyone with the intention of revenge to “think again”.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has described the paramilitary show of strength as reprehensible and “absolutely unacceptable”.

However, he said he recognised the immediate difficulties faced by gardaí when people took advantage of a funeral in this manner.

Mr Shatter said what happened at the funeral “took us back to the dark days of the Troubles”, and added that he had full confidence in Mr Callinan to take appropriate action. Innocent lives could have been lost if gardaí had intervened, he said.

Meanwhile, Martin Ferris, the Kerry North-West Limerick Sinn Féin TD, has refused to condemn the paramilitary display at the funeral, saying he had no huge issue with such displays which had been part of republicanism down through the decades.

He believed, however, these were outdated now and the peace process was the way to go.

“This has been happening traditionally down through the years . . . I don’t think it’s a huge issue. It’s far more important to convince these people there’s no role for paramilitarism.”

Mr Ferris, who was pressed on Radio Kerry to condemn the display, said there was a tradition throughout the decades amongst elements of republicanism to fire shots over the coffin of those involved.

The firing of shots over the coffin of the late War of Independence fighter and republican John Joe Sheehy in the 1980s had been condemned at the time, Mr Ferris said.

He took exception to “cynical media speculation” about Ryan’s involvement in crime when there had been no convictions for such things, Mr Ferris said, adding he believed in due process.

Last night Mr Ferris issued a statement clarifying his position. He said Sinn Féin had continuously condemned the ongoing activity of groups such as the Real IRA and asked them to disband.

He said there was “no justification” for such displays, and no necessity for them any more because there was a peace process.

This was the same as condemning the display, he said.

Ryan (32) was regarded as a leader of the Real IRA in Dublin and ran an extortion racket to help fund the organisation and also for personal gain.