How gardai bugged a popular Dublin pub to catch dissident republican leader, Seamus McGrane

by Diarmaid Mac Dermott and Daniel Hickey

Dissident republican leader Seamus McGrane was bugged by gardai as he plotted in a well-known Dublin pub with another man to carry out an operation involving explosives during the run-up to the State visit of Prince Charles two years ago.

The Garda National Surveillance Unit planted a sophisticated listening device in the snug of the Coachman’s Inn on the Airport Road, which recorded conversations between McGrane - a former founder of the Real IRA - and another man who is now in prison.

McGrane (63), from Dromisikin in Co Louth, is only the second person to be convicted of directing a terrorist organisation in the State.

The other is Michael McKevitt who was jailed for 20 years in 2003 for directing terrorism between August 1999 and October 2000. He was released from prison in 2016.

Seamus McGrane

The Special Criminal Court heard that McGrane was leader of a splinter dissident group formed in 2008, known as Oglaigh na hEireann.

During McGrane’s trial at the Special Criminal Court, during which there was no cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, the court heard recordings of the conversations in April, 2015.

McGrane told the man: "Go with whatever plan you wish. I think he’s coming on the 19th (a reference to Prince Charles)". I don’t like an embarrassment.” McGrane then mentioned “military significance.”

“Symbolic,” the man replied. “Symbolic is right,” replied McGrane. The two men were heard in the recording of April 19th discussing a location “around 400 metres from the target.”

Detective Sergeant Padraig Boyce said that the location being discussed was approximately 400 metres from the Cross of Sacrifice, a monument in Glasnevin Cemetery commemorating British and Irish soldiers who fought in World War 1.

Prince Charles at Glasnevin Cemetery

The two men were also recorded discussing a bomb found on a train line in Northern Ireland in February 2015 and an attack on MI5 Headquarters in London in April, 2010.

The court also heard that gardai found bomb making components in a field adjacent to McGrane’s house.

Veteran republican McGrane was central to the formation of the Real IRA at a meeting in a remote farmhouse near Oldcastle in Co. Meath in November, 1997.

He had resigned from the Provisional IRA when the terrorist organisation decided earlier that year to begin decommissioning of their arsenal.

At the formation meeting of the Real IRA, McGrane was appointed Director of Training for the new dissident organisation. McGrane had been convicted of IRA membership in 1976 but had not been imprisoned since then.

A former member of the Provisional IRA Executive, McGrane personally oversaw the training of new volunteers in the Real IRA.

It was during one such training session that he was arrested when the Emergency Response Unit surprised a group of ten men and boys at a remote farm near Stamullen in Co Meath in October, 1999.

The group who included Alan Ryan, the Real IRA leader who was shot dead in Dublin in 2012, were weapons training in a disused underground cellar. Gardai discovered an assault rifle, a sub-machine gun, a pistol and a rocket launcher and ammunition in the cellar.

McGrane was jailed for four years by the Special Criminal Court in 2001 after he pleaded guilty to training others in the use of firearms.

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