A Real IRA leader who plotted an explosion during the State visit of Britain’s Prince Charles two years ago has been found guilty by the Special Criminal Court of directing the activities of a terrorist organisation.
Seamus McGrane, who was also convicted of IRA membership, is 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.
The court found today that Seamus McGrane (63) discussed an operation involving explosives in the run-up to the State visit of Prince Charles two years ago.
McGrane, of Little Road, Dromiskin, Co Louth was convicted of directing the activities of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA, between the dates of April 19 and May 13, 2015.
He was also convicted of membership of the IRA between January 18, 2010 and May 13, 2015. He had denied both charges.
Convicting McGrane, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding at the non jury court, said that there was “the clearest evidence of directing an illegal organisation”.
She said that there was 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 - a pub that 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 strategy and his involvement in training people in the IRA and “swearing in” people to the organisation.
The judge said the recording also referred to a “military operation” of significance and “the main attack” on May 19, 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 12, 2010 and to a bomb on a railway line.
She added that gardaií had discovered “a veritable arsenal of weapons and explosives substances” in hides on land adjoining Mc Grane’s house, which included ammunition, a revolver, mortar parts and bomb making components.
Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding, sitting with Judge Sinead Ni Chulachain and Judge Cormac Dunne, remanded Mr McGrane in custody for sentencing on November 14 next.
Real IRA leader Seamus Mc Grane was bugged by gardaí 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 founder of the Real IRA - and engineering graduate Donal O’Coisdealbha.
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 between McGrane and O’Coisdealbha in April, 2015.
McGrane told O’Coisdealbha: "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,” O’Cosidealbha replied. “Symbolic is right,” replied McGrane. The two men were heard in the recording of April 19 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.
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 gardaí found bomb making components in a field adjacent to McGrane’s house.
Veteran republican McGrane joined his former colleague in the Provisional IRA, Michael Mc Kevitt, at the formation of the Real IRA at a meeting in a remote farmhouse near Oldcastle in Co Meath in November, 1997.
The two had resigned from the Provisional IRA, where McKevitt was Quartermaster General, 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 10 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. Gardaí 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.
Donal O’Coisdealbha was a significant recruit for the dissident republican terrorist group known as the Real IRA.
Although he never came to the attention of the gardaí, his father’s background as a former leading Provisional IRA figure, combined with his technical skill and clean record, made him a natural for recruitment by the dissident republican groups who pose the biggest threat to security, north and south of the border.
Security sources stress that he was not “radicalised” by any outside influence but was easily influenced by older militant republicans because of his natural sympathy for physical force republicanism.
His father, James Monaghan, was one of the so called Colombia Three who was arrested in Colombia in 2001, convicted of training FARC guerillas in bomb-making and who fled to Ireland in 2004.
Monaghan escaped from the Special Criminal Court following a bomb explosion there in 1976 and was alleged to be the head of engineering of the Provisional IRA, where he gained the nickname “Mortar” Monaghan.
O’Coisdealbha never came to the attention of the gardaí who regularly monitor new faces in the ranks of the dissidents, but he was soon active in radical causes.
He also took part in the riots in Dublin’s O’Connell St, which followed the planned Love Ulster parade in the city in 2006 and he was drawn in to the company of dissident republicans and in particular McGrane, who cultivated him because of his technical expertise as a trained engineer.
One security source said of O’Coisdealbha: "He was never on the radar of the gardaí, but he was a big find for the dissidents because he had the sort of technical knowledge they crave to make explosive devices.”
Since his jailing last year, O’Coisdealbha has been on the landing in Portlaoise Prison reserved for the so called New IRA.
This grouping, which is regarded by security forces north and south as the most dangerous threat to security in Ireland, is made up for former Provisional IRA members in the north, members of the Real IRA and other dissidents who never accepted the mainstream Provisional IRA’s strategy.
Members of the so called New IRA were believed to have been behind several bomb and gun attacks and to have murdered Prison Office David Black in the north in 2012 and the murder of PSNI Constable Ronan Kerr in 2011.