An inquiry into the fatal shooting by gardaí of a Real IRA member during the course of an armed robbery almost 20 years ago is to begin in Dublin this week.
The commission of investigation into the death of Ronan Mac Lochlainn in Ashford, Co Wicklow, in May 1998, opens for public hearings tomorrow, and the evidence of 85 witnesses is expected to be heard over the next two months.
The inquiry was established after Mac Lochlainn’s partner, Gráinne Nic Gibb, took a case against the State to the European Court of Human Rights over its alleged failure to carry out an effective official probe.
The Strasbourg-based court struck out the case after the State admitted to a technical breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and offered to hold an inquiry as a remedy. It followed the failure of both sides to reach a friendly settlement.
The Government decided in July 2014 the incident was of significant public concern and approved the establishment of the commission which is headed by senior counsel, Mary Rose Gearty.
Two extensions to the deadline for the completion of the inquiry have already been granted and it is due to issue its final report to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald by November 20.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
In an interim report published last April, Ms Gearty said there had been significant developments since a previous report as substantial amounts of new documentation and information had become available just a short time earlier.
Ms Gearty said numerous additional civilian and Garda witnesses who were at the scene of the shooting and who had never made statements had been identified.
She said the inquiry, which began its work in August 2014, had only had access since just before her interim report to original exhibits including the car in which Mac Lochlainn was shot, firearms used in the incident, and spent shell casings from the scene.
Evidence is due to be heard from both serving and retired gardaí and civilian and expert witnesses, though some testimony is expected to be heard in private.
The attempted robbery of a Securior security van by a gang of six people including Mac Lochlainn took place just outside Ashford on the day of a Garda “blue flu” industrial action.
An inquest heard no shots were fired by the robbers, although Mac Lochlainn was in possession of a revolver.
Mac Lochlainn, 28, from Ballymun, died as a result of a single bullet wound to his chest. A total of 12 shots were fired by three gardaí.
His death is commemorated each year by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement in a ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery.
The estimated cost of the commission is €627,500, although the figure does not include third-party costs.
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