A dissident republican death plot had targeted the family of an Irishman serving in the British army, and not the soldier himself, it has emerged.
It is believed the soldier carried Princess Diana’s coffin during her funeral.
It is understood the dissidents had planned to attack the Limerick man’s family when they were home for Christmas.
The soldier, in his 30s, had been in the FCA in Limerick before the family moved to England.
During the funeral of Diana, his picture appeared in global media. It is believed that during a Garda investigation into Continuity IRA activities in Limerick, a newspaper was discovered with his photograph circled as he was one of the pall-bearers.
The family of the soldier, a member of the Irish Guards, had left the Southill area because of unemployment and intimidation because his family was heavily involved in the military.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said the plot was a sinister development.
“A small gang of dissidents who have no mandate from anybody, who are involved in serious crime, must be dealt with,” he said, adding: “These so-called republicans are nothing but a shower of racketeers”.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said dissident republican groups in Limerick and other cities were under constant watch. He insisted they were criminals and nothing to do with any republican cause or tradition.
He was responding in an emergency Dáil topical debate tabled by Mr Collins on the issue of “a foiled attempt by the Continuity IRA to murder a British soldier in Limerick”.
The minister said: “The Garda Commissioner has advised me that there is an ongoing Garda operation in Limerick aimed at the activities of a certain group and that it would not be helpful for me to make any public comment on it and, in particular, on a specific case.
“These gangs are inextricably involved in organised crime — drug smuggling, fuel laundering, extortion, armed robbery — and there is nothing ‘republican’ whatsoever about organised crime,” he said.
The murder plot was uncovered as a direct result of a Garda operation following the death of Alan Ryan that resulted in a series of arrests in Limerick.
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