Court challenge delays report into 1998 death of Real IRA man

Publication of the final report of the inquiry into the shooting dead of a Real IRA member by gardaí during an attempted robbery is being delayed by a High Court challenge from a person named in the document.

That person is asking the report of the Commission of Investigation into the death of Ronan MacLochlainn be amended before it is passed to the minister for justice and subsequently made public.

Established in August 2014 and intended to take just six months, the inquiry has already taken three times longer than expected and is running at more than double the cost originally estimated.

The latest delay comes after the draft report was circulated to witnesses and others identified in the report for comment. Some amendments were made on foot of comments received but one individual has now taken exception to the amended document.

An application was made to the High Court under Section 35 of the Commissions of Investigation Act which allows for requests to be made for changes to draft reports “for reasons relating to failure to observe fair procedures”. The case is due before the High Court next week.

The commission is investigating the death in May 1998 of Mr MacLochlainn, who was shot dead by gardaí in Ashford, Co Wicklow, following an attempted armed robbery. It was prompted by a case taken by Mr MacLochlainn’s partner, Gráinne Nic Gibb, to the European Court of Human Rights, where she argued the State had failed to carry out an effective investigation into his death.

The 27-year-old father of three from Ballymun, Dublin, was one of a six-man gang who to tried to rob a security van carrying over €250,000 by blocking it on narrow bends outside Ashford village.

Gardaí on surveillance duty intercepted and the gang tried to flee, with Mr MacLochlainn hijacking a passing car from an elderly couple in an escape attempt.

It was initially claimed he was killed in a shoot-out but gardaí later retracted their statement when it emerged the robbers had not fired any shots.

Mr MacLochlainn’s inquest opened in August 1998 but was subject to delays as criminal prosecutions were pending against his accomplices who were subsequently jailed for terms of up to eight years each. It was subsequently adjourned.

The garda who fired the fatal shot was himself shot dead in a friendly fire incident during another armed robbery three years later.

The inquest only had hearings in 2009, ending with a verdict of death by misadventure. Ms Nic Gibb argued the hearings were flawed by the failure to hear vital testimony and she went to the European Court of Human Rights seeking an independent inquiry.

In her fourth interim report submitted last month to the minister for justice, commission chair, barrister Mary Rose Gearty, said the commission had made every effort to ensure compliance with its May 31 deadline — its fourth deadline after a series of time extensions — and the High Court case was the only outstanding matter.

She asked for the deadline to be further extended to one month from the date of completion of the court proceedings but could give no estimate of when that would be, noting the possibility the applicant or the commission may seek to appeal any order. The commission heard from more than 100 witnesses over 48 days .


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