Real IRA leader who plotted royal visit attack dies in prison

Seamus McGrane (64) planned to carry out explosion during Prince Charles’s 2015 trip

A Real IRA leader who plotted to carry out an explosion during the State visit of Prince Charles in 2015 has died in prison.

Seamus McGrane (64) died from a suspected heart attack while serving an 11½-year prison sentence for directing terrorism.

McGrane, who was also convicted of IRA membership during his trial in 2017, was 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. During his trial at the Special Criminal Court in 2017, the court was told that in the run-up to the State visit of Prince Charles two years previously Seamus McGrane discussed an operation involving explosives.

McGrane, last of Little Road, Dromiskin, Co Louth, was convicted 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. He was also convicted of membership of the IRA between January 18th, 2010, and May 13th, 2015.


Sentencing McGrane, presiding judge Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy had said that it was "a most serious offence".

The judge also noted that the court had received a letter from Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív, in which he expressed the opinion that McGrane was "fully supportive" of Mr Ó Cuív's efforts to facilitate the peace process. The judge said, however, that the TD's opinions were "unconvincing" in the light of McGrane's history.

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, which had been bugged by Garda detectives. McGrane had issued instructions to Mr O’Coisdealbha regarding meeting other people and had made statements about providing bomb-making material for others. McGrane mentioned experimenting with the development of explosives and discussed his involvement in training people in the IRA and “swearing in” people to the organisation.

‘Military operation’

The bugging also recorded references to a "military operation" of significance and "the main attack"on May 19th, 2015, the date that Prince Charles was due to carry out a State visit. McGrane had also referred in the recordings to an attack on Palace Barracks, the MI5 headquarters in Northern Ireland, on April 12th, 2010, and to a bomb on a railway line.

McGrane instructed Mr O’Coisdealbha that the operation should not be an “embarrassment” and that it was not to occur in Sligo or Galway, where Prince Charles was due to visit.

The target of the attack, the trial was told, was to be the Cross of Sacrifice, a monument in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin commemorating British and Irish soldiers who fought in the first World War.

McGrane was arrested six days before the planned attack.

Searches related to the plot were then conducted at McGrane's home in Dromiskin and an adjoining property at the back of his house, as well as at a house at Harbour Court in Courtown, Co Wexford, and a locker at Maynooth University.

The court heard that a significant amount of explosive substances was found at McGrane’s house. Detonators, ammunition and mortars were among the objects recovered.