Larry Keane, known as ‘Bomber’, died after receiving a serious blow to his head while walking home in Athy at around midnight on Thursday.
The 56-year-old was caught with a massive car bomb at Dun Laoghaire Port in April 1998. Gardaí believe it was going to be detonated it at Aintree Grand National.
Keane was sentenced to 15 years by the Special Criminal Court, which heard the 980lb bomb was twice the size of the Omagh bomb, which killed 29 people and injured over 300.
Meanwhile, in Dublin, convicted criminal and suspected killer Karl Wynne died from gunshot injuries he sustained in an attack outside shops in Tallaght last May.
Keane, a former Irish soldier, was known as a “heavy” in Athy over the years and was associated with the Real IRA.
The father-of-six, from three separate relationships, was seen in the colour party of the funeral of Real IRA gang boss Alan Ryan in Dublin last September.
Senior gardaí suspect his death was probably more likely linked to a local dispute, rather than a dissident row, which typically involves guns.
Keane was found in a semi-conscious state by gardaí on a walkway between St John’s Lane and the Greenhills Housing Estate in Athy shortly before midnight on Thursday. He had received a serious blow to the back of his head.
Gardaí rendered first aid until an ambulance arrived and he was removed to Naas Hospital, where he died at 5am.
Inspector John Ferris said gardaí were appealing to anyone who was on the laneway or in the nearby area between 11pm and midnight to contact them at 059 8634210.
Keane is thought to have been walking to his son’s house in nearby Canal Close when he was attacked on the secluded laneway. No weapon has been found.
The dissident had been out drinking in the town that night. Gardaí will be checking with staff and customers in pubs and examining local cameras in a bid to piece together his movements.
They will try and establish who he had been in contact with and whether or not he had an altercation with anyone. Detectives will also look at an assault in the town last January, in which Keane is thought to have come out the worst. It is understood gardaí know the other person involved and will check his movements.
Sources indicated yesterday there was nothing yet to show any dissident involvement, although they have not ruled it out. They suspect it’s more likely the result of a local row.
Gardaí investigating the murder of Karl Wynne suspect his death may be linked to the murder of senior criminal Alan Desmond in Tallaght a fortnight previously and the attempted murder of a bodybuilder in north Dublin the same month.
Detectives are investigating the possibility Wynne, 45, carried out both attacks. Gardaí are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the shooting at St Dominic’s Shopping Centre on May 30 or who may have seen any suspicious activity near Mountain Park Road to contact Tallaght Garda station on 01 666 6000 or the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111.