Garda who killed MacLochlainn accidentally shot dead

Commission hears sergeant was fatally shot years later during bid to catch bank robbers

A Garda sergeant who shot dead Real IRA man Ronan MacLochlainn during a botched armed raid in 1998 was shot dead accidentally by an armed colleague three years later, a commission of investigation into MacLochlainn’s death has heard.

The deceased detective sergeant fired two shots from a moving car into a vehicle MacLochlainn had just hijacked at gunpoint from a member of the public.

As the 28-year-old was trying to drive off, he was wounded and died despite efforts to revive him at the site of the incident at Cullenmore bends near Ashford, Co Wicklow, on May 1st, 1998.

The detective sergeant who discharged the shots was attached to the National Surveillance Unit (NSU) at the time and remained working with it in the years that followed.


Bullet ricocheted

During an attempt to apprehend a crime gang robbing a bank 3½ years after shooting MacLochlainn, he was fatally wounded when a bullet fired by a colleague ricocheted.

He has not been named at the commission, though the fact he was killed in a so-called friendly fire incident emerged in testimony before it on Thursday.

One Garda member who trained the NSU at the time MacLochlainn was shot dead said he never knew which member of his unit had fired the fatal rounds.

Under questioning by head of the commission, Mary Rose Gearty SC, the witness said he had only learned the identity while in the witness box giving his evidence to the commission.

When Ms Gearty put it to him he must have learned the identity of MacLochlainn's shooter when the detective sergeant who fired the fatal shots was himself accidentally shot dead by a colleague, he insisted he never knew the name.

Slipped into unconsciousness

Another Garda witness, giving his testimony on condition of anonymity, recalled speaking to MacLochlainn as he sat on the road after he was shot but before he slipped into unconsciousness and died.

“He was just sitting down on the road and I spoke to him, yes,” he recalled.“I asked him his name; his shirt was open or may have been off. There was a slight smudging of blood on his chest.

“I asked him if he had any other injury. He said he had a chest injury. I looked back and front and I said to him ‘I don’t see any’. I told him ‘I’m getting medical assistance’.

“The minute I stopped talking he sort of rolled over.”

He added after he drove into the scene he was confronted by one of the armed Real IRA men.

“He was coming directly at me with a gun,” he said.

“He shouted ‘Get back, get back or I’ll shoot you’. I had drawn my gun and I shouted ‘armed gardaí, stop’. He turned immediately away from me.”

MacLochlainn (28) from Ballymun, north Dublin, was shot dead during an armed robbery by a Real IRA gang on a Securicor van at Cullenmore Bends near Ashford, Co Wicklow, on May 1st, 1998.

Under surveillance

The gang was under surveillance at the time and when it tried to ambush the van in busy traffic just after 5pm on the Friday of the bank holiday weekend, members of the NSU and emergency response unit moved in.

MacLochlainn had hijacked a Mazda car at gunpoint from a couple who were passing. As he tried to drive off while pointing a gun at gardaí, he was fatally shot.

The other gang members were arrested at the scene and were subsequently convicted and jailed for their roles in the incident.

The Commission of Investigation, under Ms Gearty, was established by the Government in July of last year after the dead man's partner Grainne Nic Gib took her case to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled MacLochlainn's shooting dead was never properly investigated.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times