Gardaí say they know identity of most who fired funeral shots
GARDAÍ BELIEVE they have identified most of the dissident republicans involved in firing shots over the coffin of Real IRA member Alan Ryan, as well as those who made up a colour guard in paramilitary combat attire outside the funeral Mass.
However, because those involved in firing the shots were not arrested at the scene and were not found in possession of the firearms used to fire the volley over the 32-year-old’s coffin, criminal charges relating directly to that incident may never be pursued.
Senior officers working on the investigation say charging those involved with membership of an illegal organisation, which would be dealt with by the non-jury Special Criminal Court, is the more likely outcome.
Gardaí on Thursday staged a significant search and arrest operation at more than 30 residential dwellings and commercial premises in Dublin, Kildare and Meath and arrested 17 suspects. The investigation – codenamed Operation Ambience – is specifically aimed at the firing of shots before Ryan’s funeral in Donaghmede, north Dublin, last Saturday morning.
However, the volley of shots and the appearance of the colour guard outside the funeral Mass represented the most significant public show of strength by the Real IRA in the Republic and has been interpreted in political and policing circles as a serious and deliberate challenge to the agencies of the State.
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 drug gangs.
Gardaí believe he was shot on the afternoon of September 3rd at Grange Lodge Avenue, Clongriffin, north Dublin, by one of the Dublin organised crime gangs with whom he had come into conflict.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter have defended the decision of senior officers on the ground at the funeral not to mobilise the significant Garda numbers present to try to arrest the gunmen and members of the colour guard.
Both have said that decision was taken so as not to inflame an emotional situation and in the interests of public safety, given the size of the crowd at the funeral. However, they have also said they are determined to pursue a rigorous investigation and bring criminal charges arising from the funeral scenes.
During Thursday’s searches a number of items were seized, including three imitation firearms, mobile phones and laptops. Gardaí are trying to determine if any material found could be combined with the results of the Garda surveillance at the funeral to make a case against those identified.
Seventeen people had been arrested on Thursday and some were released without charge. Five people were a still being questioned last night, though not all of those arrested were involved in the events of last Saturday.