Detective ‘in fear of his life’ on day of fatal shooting of Real IRA member, inquiry hears

Commission is investigating death of Ronán MacLochlainn in Wicklow in 1998

A 1998 photograph of the coffin bearing the remains of Ronan Mac Lochlainn leaving the funeral home in Finglas village. Picture: Matt Kavanagh.

A 1998 photograph of the coffin bearing the remains of Ronan Mac Lochlainn leaving the funeral home in Finglas village. Picture: Matt Kavanagh.

 

A detective who shot dead a member of Real IRA during a foiled cash-in-transit raid in Wicklow was “in fear of my life”, the MacLochlainn commission heard.

The garda, identified as DS06 rather than by name, shot Ronán MacLochlainn (28) from Ballymun during the armed robbery on May 1st, 1998.

The detective later died when he was accidentally hit by a garda bullet during another armed robbery.

A statement taken from the detective after the events was read into the record at the commission hearing in Dublin on Thursday.

He said he had been on duty with the crime and security branch in Ashford, Co Wicklow, on May 1st, 1998, and became aware that an armed robbery was in progress at about 5.05pm.

The detective went to the scene from the Dublin Road side and saw a man wearing a balaclava driving a green Mazda.

He described how the man had a gun pointed at Detective Supt Pat Hogan and Insp John Gantley. At that point he “heard shots being fired”.

The detective was wearing a Garda tabard and had his personal-issue revolver drawn.

“I was in fear for my life and the lives of the other gardaí,” he said. “ I fired two shots at the driver as he passed me.”

The commission heard he then went to the assistance of the other two gardaí as they were removing the driver from the car. He was “resisting violently”, the statement added.

As the man was being handcuffed, the gardaí realised he had been shot in the chest and they sought medical assistance.

The detective remained at the scene until about 6pm and then he went with a garda given the number DG03 to a scene where a white van was parked.

DS06 said he had parked his car across the van and that the driver jumped out and the gardaí chased him across fields. He drew his gun and shouted: “Stop, gardaí”.

They asked the man if he was armed and he had replied: “No”. When the gardaí arrested him he confirmed he was Paschal Burke of Marrowbone Lane, Dublin.

DS06 also said said there were no guns in the van but they found a mobile phone, a walkie-talkie and gloves. He had remained at the scene until a garda came to preserve it.

The commission also heard from retired Garda chief superintendent John Farrelly, who was head of the Garda press office at the time of the incident.

Mr Farrelly told the commission he had given mistaken information to the media in the hours after the shooting.

He had been told by then deputy commissioner Noel Conroy that there had been an “exchange of fire” between gardaí and the raiders. But it had later emerged that only the gardaí on the scene had fired shots and a correction had been issued by the Garda press office the next morning.

Mr Farrelly said the issuing of incorrect information “emphatically was not deliberate”.

“It was just a mistake,” he said.

The commission, under sole member Mary Rose Gearty SC, is due to report by November 20th.