Aidan 'The Beast' O'Driscoll was "executed" on a busy Cork street in a "well-planned" hit that was part of an internal dispute between the Real IRA and the New IRA, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
Colin Casey (32) and Daniel Hegarty (24), with unknown addresses, pleaded guilty to four counts of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of the killers of Aidan “The Beast” O’Driscoll in Cork city more than two years ago.
A third man, Eoin Morrissey (19), with an unknown address, also pleaded guilty to two counts of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Mr O’Driscoll’s killers.
Mr O’Driscoll, a senior figure in the Real IRA in Munster, died after he was shot four times on the Old Commons Road, in Blackpool, Cork City on December 7, 2016.
The Special Criminal Court heard that Casey collected the alleged gunmen from the Redemption Road area of Blackpool after they had arrived in a silver Nissan Almera. He drove them from that location in a white Vauxhall Astra van which he subsequently burned out, along with the Nissan Almera.
Hegarty collected a bag used by the alleged killers in the vicinity of Farranferris, Blackpool in Cork city, which he buried at an isolated location. He also set fire to a Honda CBR motorbike used to transport the bag, and was involved in the burning of a red Opel Astra car.
Morrissey provided Hegarty, his first cousin, with a firelighter which was used to burn the red Opel Astra car. He was also charged with following Hegarty to Inchamay, Naad, Banteer, where the red Opel Astra car was burnt out, so as to provide transport for Hegarty after the burning.
The State was unable to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the three men knew a murder was to be committed, prosecuting counsel, Ronan Kennedy BL, told the court.
At their sentence hearing today, Det Sgt Niall O’Connell, of Watercourse Garda Station in Cork, told the court that the execution was well-planned and preparations had been in place for a considerable amount of time.
Det Sgt O’Connell said gardaí believed the shooting was part of an internal dispute between the Real IRA and the New IRA and investigations remain ongoing. He said the garda investigation established that two males were involved in the fatal shooting, neither of whom were Casey, Hegarty or Morrissey.
The detective agreed with Mr Kennedy, prosecuting, that the Old Commons Road was the “heart of Blackpool”. It was a busy area with lots of vehicles and pedestrians passing through it. Children were attending a nearby drama school at the time of the shooting.
He said Mr O’Driscoll had travelled from his employers’ yard to the Old Commons Road at approximately 4.50pm on the day in question where he was to carry out some renovation work at an address that was familiar to him.
After crossing the road, Mr O’Driscoll was confronted by a gunman who fired a shot into him. Mr O’Driscoll tried to run from his assailant and the first attacker’s gun appeared to jam, the detective said. A second gunman exited the driver’s side of a silver Nissan Almera and followed Mr O’Driscoll across the road.
Det Sgt O’Connell said Mr O’Driscoll was shot four times in total. He said three bullets were recovered from his body with the fourth recovered from a hedge down the road.
“A (fifth, unspent) bullet was found on the roadway which had been ejected from one of the guns,” Det Sgt O’Connell said.
He said the culprits fled in a silver Nissan Almera before driving to Cemetery Road where a white van driven by Casey was waiting. Casey got out of the van, opened the rear doors, and the people from the Almera got into it, the detective said.
Casey, described as somebody who worked in the motor trade, told gardaí that he drove the white van from his house to Cemetery Road where a number of people “jumped in”. He said he didn’t know who they were.
He said he was told earlier that day to look for cars associated with Mr O’Driscoll. He said he did what he was told to do and he was under pressure to do it.
Hegarty, a mechanic with no previous convictions, outlined to gardaí how he travelled together with his friend to a location where he was told to wait by the side of the road. A short time later, he was handed a bag which he was to bury.
He told gardaí that he had an idea what was in the bag but would not say. He said he knew something bad was going to happen on the day in question, but that was the extent of it.
Morrissey, a mechanic’s apprentice, admitted to his role in the disposal of the red Opel Astra. He said he only realised afterwards that the car had been used in the shooting.
His barrister, Tim O’Leary SC, said his client had no affiliations with or tendencies towards illegal organisations, and had only become involved in events two weeks after the shooting.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt fixed April 12 at the date for sentence. Hegarty and Casey were remanded in custody while Morrissey was remanded on continuing bail.
Det Sgt O’Connell said the garda investigation involved 100 gardaí and the allocation of 1,300 jobs. He said 10,000 hours of CCTV footage was viewed, 63 phones were analysed and over 700 statements were taken.
He said it was clear from mobile phone analysis that, from earlier on in the day, “all the elements” were in place and vehicles were in position for the shooting.