Gardaí hold 17 over shots fired at funeral

Fri, Sep 14, 2012, 01:00

GARDAÍ HAVE conducted a high-profile operation across Leinster against dissident republicans as part of the investigation into the firing of a volley of shots at the funeral of Real IRA member Alan Ryan.

Teams of uniformed gardaí, armed detectives and armed members of specialist units such as the Emergency Response Unit were dispatched to locations in five counties to arrest suspects and gather evidence.

The Garda Dog Unit and Garda helicopter were also part of the operation, which involved 200 gardaí and had been in the planning since last weekend.

Gardaí are hopeful the surveillance placed on key associates of Ryan will in the short term deter any killings avenging his murder.

Sixteen suspects were arrested in the co-ordinated raids that started before dawn yesterday and one further person was detained during follow-up operations in the afternoon. Political parties including Sinn Féin have welcomed the operation.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams TD said “groups involved in gangsterism and crime masquerading as the IRA” had no place in Irish society.

“The IRA did the right thing on British resistance and when the peace process came forward,” he said.

“Anybody who is a genuine republican should be about the process of building a genuine republic and not involved in these kinds of exercise which is not about republican struggle.”

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Niall Collins TD described as “sinister” the scenes at the Ryan funeral in Donaghmede, north Dublin, last Saturday and commended yesterday’s Garda raids.

“It sends the message loud and clear that the citizens of this Republic will not tolerate this type of insult and lawlessness. We need a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of organised crime.”

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement condemned the arrests, saying people who were close to Ryan and grieving had been detained. It said the Garda investigation into the 32-year-old’s murder was progressing with less urgency.

“[The Garda’s] response has been to try and attempt to intimidate those who were close to Alan into silence,” its statement said.

Ryan had served time in prison for firearms offences linked to his membership of the Real IRA. In recent years he had emerged as a key player in the organisation in Dublin, fundraising by extorting publicans and drugs gangs.

Gardaí believe he was gunned down on the afternoon of last Monday week at Grange Lodge Avenue, Clongriffin, north Dublin, by one of the Dublin organised crime gangs he had come into conflict with.

Some of yesterday’s Garda operation focused on houses and apartments in the Donaghmede, Clongriffin and Coolock areas that would have been regarded as Ryan’s base. More than 30 properties were searched, with those raids going into counties Meath and Kildare. As well as private dwellings, business and commercial premises were also raided. Of the 17 arrested, 16 are men. The suspects range in age from 20 to 60 years and all are detained under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.

As part of the operation – codenamed Operation Ambience – gardaí seized three imitation firearms, electronic devices including mobile phones, laptop computers and memory sticks as well as documentation.

The investigation is specifically trying to confirm the identity of and bring charges against those who fired shots over Ryan’s coffin before it left the family home for the funeral last Saturday and also those masked people who dressed in combat gear as a colour guard.

But charges of being a member of an illegal organisation could be pursued. Intelligence gathered by gardaí can be presented as evidence by senior officers before the Special Criminal Court, and any items seized yesterday, including imitation firearms and even literature, could be presented as circumstantial evidence.