Seamus McGrane, 63, of Little Road, Dromiskin, County Louth, was convicted in October by the non-jury Special Criminal Court of directing the activities of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA, between the dates of April 19 and May 13, 2015.
McGrane, leader of a splinter dissident group formed in 2008 and known as Oglaigh na hEireann, is only the second person to be convicted of directing terrorism in the State. His ally Michael McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in 2003 for directing terrorism.
On October 31 last, the court found that McGrane discussed an operation involving explosives in the run-up to the State visit of Prince Charles two years ago.
He was also found guilty of membership of the IRA between January 18 , 2010 and May 13, 2015. He had denied both charges.
He was also sentenced yesterday to six and a half years in prison for IRA membership.
Sentencing McGrane, presiding judge Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said that it was “a most serious offence”.
The judge also noted that the court had received a letter from Eamon O’Cuiv TD, in which the Fianna Fáil TD expressed the opinion that McGrane was “fully supportive” of Mr O’Cuiv’s efforts to facilitate the peace process.
Later, Deputy O’Cuiv defended his role in the case, telling RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta that he had never written to the judge, but had given Seamus McGrane’s solicitor a statement.
“Seamus McGrane is part of a particular group of dissidents, and I have been involved in working with them for almost two years to persuade them to move away from violence entirely as a group,” Deputy O’Cuiv said.
“They released a statement to the media on 12 November saying that they were going to move in a new direction, a peaceful direction. I knew that that statement would be forthcoming from them, due to the work I’m involved in, and it’s no secret that I am working in prisons in the north and the south.”
The defendant has two previous convictions. The first was for IRA membership and dates back to 1976 for which he spent one year in custody. The second conviction, from 2001, related to training others in the use of firearms for which he was jailed for four years by the Special Criminal Court.
In October 1999 McGrane had been arrested in Meath in a training camp discovered in an underground bunker, where a firing-range had been constructed.
During the most recent trial, in October, the court heard evidence from two audio recordings, from April and May 2015, of McGrane and Donal O’Coisdealbha in conversation in the snug of The Coachman’s Inn on the Airport Road in Dublin — a pub that had been bugged by garda detectives.
McGrane had issued instructions to O’Coisdealbha to contact a person he referred to as the “motorbike man” to collect ingredients required to make explosives. He had also made statements about providing bomb-making material for others.
McGrane mentioned experimenting with the development of explosives and discussed strategy and his involvement in training people in the IRA and “swearing in” people to the organisation.
The recording from May also referred to a “military operation” of significance and “the main attack” on May 19, the date Prince Charles was due to carry out a State visit.
McGrane instructed O’Coisdealbha that the operation should not be an “embarrassment” and that it was not to occur in Sligo or Galway, where Prince Charles was due to visit.
The target of the attack, the trial was told, was to be the Cross of Sacrifice, a monument in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin commemorating British and Irish soldiers who fought in World War 1.
The defendant was arrested six days before the planned attack.
Afterwards Det Chief Supt Tom Maguire, of the Special Detective Unit (SDU), said it was a “very significant conviction” for An Garda Siochana.