Ex-garda objects to reconstruction of MacLochlainn raid

Pat Hogan says video graphic does not represent what he faced in 1998 botched robbery

A colour party forms a guard of honour as the coffin bearing the remains of Real IRA member Ronán MacLochlainn leaves Massey Brothers Funeral Home in Finglas Village in 1998. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh The coffin bearing the remains of dissident IRA man Ronan MacLochlainn leaves the funeral home in 1998. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

A colour party forms a guard of honour as the coffin bearing the remains of Real IRA member Ronán MacLochlainn leaves Massey Brothers Funeral Home in Finglas Village in 1998. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh The coffin bearing the remains of dissident IRA man Ronan MacLochlainn leaves the funeral home in 1998. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

A former senior detective who discharged his gun during a botched robbery in which a member of the Real IRA was shot dead has denied having “something to hide”.

Pat Hogan, who was a detective inspector at the time Rónán Mac Lochlainn was shot dead in Co Wicklow in May 1998, also objected to a computer generated reconstruction of the incident while giving evidence at a commission of investigation into Mac Lochlainn’s death.

In a robust exchange with Hugh Hartnett SC, for Mac Lochlainn’s family and partner Gráinne Nic Gib, former Emergency Response Unit (ERU) commander Mr Hogan said a “sterile” computer-aided graphic should not be used for evidential purposes.

“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be unhelpful here,” he told the commission of investigation, under Mary Rose Gearty SC, investigating the shooting by gardaí of Mac Lochlainn.

“I am here being judged. This [video graphic] does not represent the scenario I entered into with men with guns 17 years ago.”

When Mr Hartnett suggested to Mr Hogan that he was not being judged, he replied firmly: “Of course I’m being judged. There’s going to be a report from this.”

After a break in proceedings for legal consultation, Mr Hartnett said he would proceed with his questioning with the aid of the photographs of the scene that were available.

He added he had never intended to question Mr Hogan’s character.

The reconstruction had been commissioned only “because so much material is missing; even the aerial photography”.

The commission of investigation is examining the shooting of Mac Lochlainn (28), from Ballymun, north Dublin, during an armed robbery by a Real IRA gang on a Securicor van at Cullenmore Bends near Ashford, Co Wicklow, on May 1st, 1998.

Hijacked by gunpoint

Mr Hogan, who is now retired from the Garda, had earlier told the commission he had opened fire on Mac Lochlainn after the Real IRA member had hijacked a car by gunpoint from an elderly couple who happened to be caught up in the incident.

He said Mac Lochlainn pointed the gun at the head of the man in the car and ordered him out, before sitting into the driver’s seat himself.

“I shouted ‘armed Garda, stop’. The driver pointed the firearm at me and I fired three times.”

Mr Hogan added he then went to the door of the vehicle and opened it as a colleague dived in and another shot was discharged inside the vehicle. A search of the car later yielded a revolver.

The dead man’s inquest has already been told he died of a shot to the chest and that 12 shots in total were fired by Garda members on the day.

Mr Hogan said at one point a member of the National Surveillance Unit discharged two shots, one of which was in his general direction.

However, there was no intelligence to suggest in advance what was about to happen.

He added that “unless you see a gun in front of you and somebody is firing it at you” it was “virtually impossible” to describe what it feels like.

When asked why the scene was not preserved for examination as crime scenes usually are, Mr Hogan said the locality was “live” and that his responsibility was to get to safety those members of the public passing in cars that had caught up in the incident.

“Somebody was giving first aid [to the victim]. People were emotional. There was a lot of blood.”

Responding to questions from Mr Hartnett, Mr Hogan said he never attended a debriefing about the incident and he believed no debrief had taken place.

He was present at a meeting in Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, the day after the incident.

He said the then Garda commissioner – who was not named but was the now retired Pat Byrne – expressed concern for the gardaí involved in the operation.

According to Mr Hogan, the commissioner also voiced his gratitude that the “Real IRA had been prevented from gathering £300,000 to put into their machine”.

The dead man and other members of the gang were followed from Dublin to Wicklow by the members of the surveillance unit supported by armed members of the ERU.

When the gang attempted to rob the van on the busy Dublin to Wexford road just after 5pm on the Friday at the start of the May bank holiday weekend, armed gardaí moved in. The victim was shot dead and the other men arrested and subsequently jailed.