Garda describes ‘ridiculous’ situation of botched raid

MacLochlainn commission: Garda experienced ‘worst nightmare’ when facing gun

A detective garda has described a "ridiculous" situation involving an obviously pregnant, armed member of the Garda National Surveillance Unit (NSU) running into the scene of a botched cash-in-transit robbery in Co Wicklow in 1998.

The NSU and the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), with further Garda back up in the air, were involved when Rónán MacLochlainn (28) was fatally shot by members of An Garda Síochána in the course of the armed robbery at the Cullenmore bends on the N11 in Ashford, Co Wicklow.

The MacLochlainn Commission of Investigation is inquiring into the circumstances of the killing. The detective garda, identified only as DG06 to protect his identity, told the commission he drove to within four feet of the cash-in-transit van after it had been stopped by raiders.

He then faced his “worst nightmare” when he saw a man in a balaclava sitting in a car with a sawn-off shotgun pointed directly at him.

DG06 said he drew his revolver, assumed a firing stance and shouted to the gunman to drop his weapon.

The gunman dropped his weapon and DG06, along with two colleagues, rushed towards the car and pulled the gunman out. He said he heard shots and knew them to be neither shotgun nor rifle shots.

There were members of the NSU and the ERU present and he watched as an NSU colleague came running towards the scene.

“It looked so ridiculous, here was an obviously pregnant female with her weapon drawn running into the scene of an armed robbery,” he said.

He said “if you saw it on TV you wouldn’t believe it”.

DG06 said he felt the killing was a “tragedy” and subsequently discovered that Mr MacLochlainn had been a father of young children as he himself was.

Target

The dead man and other members of the gang had been followed from Dublin to Wicklow by the NSU.

DG06 said the NSU did not initially know what was the gang’s target was, but a possible target, a Securicor van, drove into the scene in Ashford.

The NSU and the ERU, which had a number of vehicles based in the Glanbia coop in Ashford, followed the van and the gang towards a heavily-wooded section of the then N11.

DG06 said radios in use by the gardaí at the time were inferior to those available now, and at the time officers might not get a signal “from on side of O’Connell Street to another”. He said a Garda plane had been used to monitor the situation as it happened.

In 2010, the partner of Mr MacLochlainn, Ms Gráinne Nic Gibb, took a case against Ireland under the European Convention on Human Rights alleging a failure on the part of the State to carry out an effective investigation into the fatal shooting.