Real IRA leader, Seamus McGrane, was bugged by gardaí, as he plotted in a 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. It recorded conversations between McGrane, a founder of the Real IRA, and engineering graduate, Donal O’Coisdealbha.
Mc Grane, 63, from Dromisikin, in Co Louth, is only the second person to be convicted of directing a terrorist organisation in the State.
His former colleague and fellow founder of the Real IRA, Michael McKevitt, was jailed for 20 years, in 2003, for directing terrorism between August, 1999 and October, 2000. He was released in 2016.
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,” said McGrane. The two men were heard in the recording discussing a location “around 400 metres from the target”.
Detective Sergeant Padraig Boyce said the location was 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 home.
McGrane, a veteran Republican, had joined a former colleague in the Provisional IRA, Michael McKevitt, in forming 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 (McKevitt was its quartermaster general) when the terrorist organisation had decided, earlier that year, to begin decommissioning of their arsenal.
McGrane was appointed the 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 Real IRA volunteers. 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 (including Alan Ryan, the Real IRA leader 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, 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, meanwhile, was a significant recruit for 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 a 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 outsiders, 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, arrested in South America 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 took part in the riots in Dublin’s O’Connell Street, which followed the planned Love Ulster parade in the city in 2006.
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.” Since his jailing, last year, O’Coisdealbha has been on the landing in Portlaoise prison, reserved for the so-called New IRA.
This grouping, regarded by security forces, north and south, as the most dangerous threat to security in Ireland, is made up of former Provisional IRA members in the north, members of the Real IRA, and other dissidents who never accepted the Provisional IRA’s strategy.