Dissident republican who planned royal visit attack jailed for 11.5 years

Seamus McGrane is only second person convicted of directing terrorism in State

The court found Seamus McGrane (63) discussed an operation involving explosives in the run-up to the State visit of Prince Charles two years ago.

The court found Seamus McGrane (63) discussed an operation involving explosives in the run-up to the State visit of Prince Charles two years ago.

 

A dissident republican leader convicted of directing the activities of a terrorist organisation which plotted an explosion during the State visit of Britain’s Prince Charles two years ago has been jailed for 11½ years.

Seamus McGrane (63), of Little Road, Dromiskin, Co Louth, was convicted in October by the non-jury Special Criminal Court of directing the activities of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA, between the dates of April 19th and May 13th, 2015.

McGrane, leader of a splinter dissident group formed in 2008 and known as Óglaigh na hÉireann, is only the second person to be convicted of directing terrorism in the State. His ally Michael McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in 2003 for directing terrorism.

On October 31st last, the court found McGrane discussed an operation involving explosives in the run-up to the State visit of Prince Charles two years ago.

He was also found guilty by the three-judge court of membership of the IRA between January 18th, 2010, and May 13th, 2015.

He had denied both charges.

He was sentenced on Thursday to 6½ years in prison for IRA membership.

Sentencing McGrane, presiding judge Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said it was “a most serious offence”.

Audio recordings

During the trial the court heard evidence from two audio recordings, from April and May 2015, of McGrane and Donal O’Coisdealbha in conversation in the snug of The Coachman’s Inn on the Airport Road in Dublin – a pub that had been bugged by Garda detectives.

McGrane had issued instructions to O’Coisdealbha to contact a person he referred to as the “motorbike man” to collect ingredients required to manufacture explosives. He had also made statements about providing bomb-making material for others.

McGrane mentioned experimenting with the development of explosives and discussed strategy and his involvement in training people in the IRA and “swearing in” people to the organisation.

The recording from May also referred to a “military operation” of significance and “the main attack” on May 19th, the date Prince Charles was due to carry out a State visit.

McGrane instructed O’Coisdealbha that the operation should not be an “embarrassment”. He had also described in the recordings an attack on Palace Barracks – the MI5 headquarters in Northern Ireland – on April 12th, 2010, and a bomb on a railway line.

McGrane was arrested six days before the planned attack and searches were conducted at his home in Dromiskin and an adjoining property at the back of his house. Detonators were found in the fields adjoining McGrane’s property.

The defendant has two previous convictions. The first was for IRA membership and dates back to 1976, for which he spent one year in custody.

The second conviction related to training others in the use of firearms for which he was jailed for four years by the Special Criminal Court. Among the group being trained was Alan Ryan, the Real IRA leader shot dead in Dublin in 2012.

Concurrent terms

The sentences for directing terrorism and for IRA membership are to run concurrently.

O’Coisdealbha was jailed for 5½ years by the Special Criminal Court in December 2016 after pleading guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann otherwise the IRA within the State on May 13th, 2015.

O’Coisdealbha had never previously come to the attention of the Garda, although he did take part in the riots in Dublin’s O’Connell Street, which followed the planned Love Ulster parade in the city in 2006, and he was drawn in to the company of dissident republicans and in particular McGrane, who cultivated him because of his technical expertise as a trained engineer.

Security sources stress O’Coisdealbha was not “radicalised” by any outside influence but was easily influenced by older militant republicans because of his natural sympathy for physical force republicanism.

His father, James Monaghan, was one of the so called Colombia Three who was arrested in Colombia in 2001, convicted of training Farc guerillas in bomb making and who fled to Ireland in 2004.

Monaghan escaped from the Special Criminal Court following a bomb explosion there in 1976 and was alleged to be the head of engineering of the Provisional IRA, where he gained the nickname “Mortar” Monaghan.

Since his jailing last year, O’Coisdealbha has been on the landing in Portlaoise Prison reserved for the so-called New IRA.

This grouping, which is regarded by security forces North and South as the most dangerous threat to security in Ireland, is made up of former Provisional IRA members in the North, members of the Real IRA and other dissidents who never accepted the mainstream Provisional IRA’s strategy.

Members of the so-called New IRA were believed to have been behind several bomb and gun attacks, and to have murdered Northern Ireland prison office David Black in 2012 and PSNI constable Ronan Kerr near Omagh, Co Tyrone in 2011.