Real IRA shooting: Gardaí had not been alerted to any threat to dissident

Locals speak of the fear of reprisals in the aftermath of Aidan O’Driscoll’s killing. Noel Baker reports

AIDAN O’DRISCOLL moved in similar circles to everyone else — family, community, sporting, social. But there was another circle that was very different, one maybe even unknown to him but which finally tightened around him with such devastating effect on a Cork City street on Wednesday.

There are fears the 37-year-old’s violent passing, gunned down on the Old Commons Road near Blackpool village, could spark further bloodshed or retaliation, yet gardaí yesterday signalled that in many ways this case is an open book: there is no intelligence to suggest any kind of recent internal feud within dissident republicanism. Aidan O’Driscoll had not come to garda attention in recent times. He was working as a painter and decorator, essentially a nine-to-five existence, yet for the Ballyvolane native, his death was the end of a chequered adult life.

He was a father, a partner, a son, a sportsman, a sibling and also, according to informed sources, a well-known dissident republican who had already come under violent scrutiny. He was the victim of a punishment-style shooting in June 2013 when he was shot in the legs, an act later claimed by the Real IRA as having been in response to “unrepublican conduct”. That it has since been reported that this act may have been “by appointment”, highlights the strange machinations of the dissident world.

O’Driscoll’s nickname of ‘the beast’ dated back to his days playing football. As if to illustrate that the victim of a daylight gun attack had a life before this violent end, Delanys GAA club used its Facebook page yesterday to announce that as a mark of respect to Aidan O’Driscoll, his partner and his family, it was cancelling all club activities this weekend. It also featured a picture of a lighted candle.

Yesterday a spokesman for Delanys recounted how O’Driscoll had played with the club all his life — hurling and football, at every level. His last match was just four weeks ago against Nemo Rangers in a Junior 2 League Final, while two of his siblings are heavily involved at the club in playing and coaching. According to another source yesterday, O’Driscoll’s ‘beast’ moniker was well-earned — a big, physical, aggressive presence who was a great target for any high ball being dropped in, and woe betide any marker who got in the way. The violent death of the full-forward means the cancellation of club functions this coming weekend, including the children’s Christmas party. The club also said it will speak to O’Driscoll’s family before deciding its next steps regarding any tribute.

Garda Supt Mick Comyns pictured at a media briefing on the Old Commons Road, Blackpool Cork City, where dissident republican Aidan O’Driscoll was fatally shot. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Garda Supt Mick Comyns pictured at a media briefing on the Old Commons Road, Blackpool Cork City, where dissident republican Aidan O’Driscoll was fatally shot. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

As gardaí yesterday continued door-to-door inquiries and combed CCTV footage from near the crime scene, indications were that it was simply too early to determine who would carry out such a brutal attack, or the reasons why.

Back in June 2005, O’Driscoll was among five men convicted by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin of membership of an illegal organisation. Then aged 26 and living at Glenheights Park, Ballyvolane, O’Driscoll had pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA, on December 15, 2003. During the 20-day trial O’Driscoll exercised his right not to give evidence. Ultimately, Mr Justice Richard Johnson said the court accepted beyond a reasonable doubt the evidence of Assistant Commissioner Jerry Kelly and Det Chief Supt Michael McAndrew — evidence he said was corroborated by the failure of each of the accused to answer material questions relating to membership when questioned by the gardaí.

O’Driscoll was sentenced to three years in prison, but in May 2008 the convictions of all five men were quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal, which found the Special Criminal court did not have the jurisdiction to try them because they were not charged “forthwith” after they were arrested. Lawyers for the men had argued over jurisdiction because of the failure to charge them after they were held for more than 12 hours. Four of the five men had been on bail pending the outcome of the appeal and only O’Driscoll had been in custody. Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said the Court of Criminal Appeal’s hands were tied because of a Supreme Court ruling in an earlier case. In a statement issued shortly afterwards the 32 County Sovereignty Movement said it believed there had been no grounds to charge the men in the first place and that “what they have gone through in the intervening five years is nothing short of serious political harassment and a wholesale attack on their civil liberties”. Yet O’Driscoll’s level of support within the dissident republican movement would not always stay at this high level.

It is understood O’Driscoll was chief of staff of the Real IRA’s southern command up to 2012, before the shooting dead of Real IRA figurehead, Alan Ryan, in Dublin.

Alan Ryan was shot dead in Dublin in 2012. Picture: Collins Court
Alan Ryan was shot dead in Dublin in 2012. Picture: Collins Court

It is also understood that Ryan and O’Driscoll were allies and that the Corkman rose up the ranks even as the September 2012 murder of Ryan on a north Dublin City St destabilised the small but volatile world of dissident republicanism. Ryan had been jailed in 2000 over the discovery of a Real IRA training camp but had also been under threat from a criminal gang at the time of his killing. O’Driscoll lived for a time in Dublin and was certainly not around the Cork area for a time. There is a theory that O’Driscoll may have come under suspicion from dissident colleagues of siphoning off money belonging to the Real IRA, which led to a demotion.

By June 2013 the situation had become so fraught that O’Driscoll was himself the victim of reprisals when he was shot in the leg.

The Cork 32 County Sovereignty Movement issued a statement after the shooting saying it had “been contacted anonymously by the (Real) IRA using a recognised codeword”. The statement said the victim, who it did not name, had served time in Portlaoise prison for IRA membership, but was subsequently acquitted. It further explained that after his release he had moved to Dublin but more recently had returned to live in his native Cork. The shooting had taken place at a location known as “the Long Lane” in the Dublin Hill/Ballyvolane area, with O’Driscoll later presenting with an injury at Cork University Hospital. He never made a complaint to gardaí about the incident. The Cork 32 County Sovereignty Movement said “he was shot in the leg for his unrepublican conduct”.

Since then, however, it is understood that there was no garda warning that his life was under any threat, nor was there any indication that he had come to garda attention this year. But clearly, something, somewhere, was happening.

Gardaí searching an area at Lower Monard near Killeens outside Cork City where a partially burned vehicle was found following the murder. Picture: Denis Minihane
Gardaí searching an area at Lower Monard near Killeens outside Cork City where a partially burned vehicle was found following the murder. Picture: Denis Minihane

Just last year gardaí wanted to speak to O’Driscoll about a brutal crucifixion-style attack on a member of the Traveller community. He was arrested and questioned regarding the incident, carried out against a trader from Rathkeale in Co Limerick and which involved the victim being lured to a house where he was then tied to a chair and a nail gun was used to manacle his feet to the floor. It was some time before the man managed to extricate himself and raise the alarm. O’Driscoll denied any involvement and he was never charged in connection with it.

Now gardaí are seeking the men responsible for O’Driscoll’s death. There were at least two attackers. Who were they? Why did they do it? Might there be ramifications for others as a result? One local person said yesterday there was now a “fear factor” in the area, with people concerned about retaliation. There is a hope that there will be a heightened garda presence to help put minds at ease.

Facebook tributes flooded in yesterday, praising O’Driscoll as a “gent” and commending his work in GAA circles or recalling times growing up in Ballyvolane. There were suggestions yesterday that O’Driscoll was due to get married next year to his longtime partner, who is from a highly regarded and well-respected family. Whatever the future held, it was altered irrevocably on Wednesday night.

Battle for control may have sparked murder

Eoin English and Sean O’Riordan

A battle among a new generation of Real IRA members to control its drugs trade, racketeering, and money-laundering operations may have lead to the killing of dissident republican Aidan O’Driscoll, garda sources believe.

Gardaí were not aware of any threat to the life of Mr O’Driscoll, who was gunned down on the outskirts of Cork City on Wednesday, and have appealed for help tracing the movements of three cars they believe were used by his killers.

Supt Mick Comyns, the officer leading the investigation, said they are keeping an open mind on the motive behind the murder in the Blackpool area of Cork City.

“We have no idea why this shooting took place. Mr O’Driscoll is a son, a father, and we will be using all our resources to solve this murder,” said Supt Comyns. “We will consider anything that comes from the investigation.”

However, senior sources said there is a long list of suspects given that the victim associated with several dangerous individuals and had made many enemies.

Detectives will be considering the possibility that the shooting may be linked to an internal dispute within the Real IRA, that it could be linked to a local drugs feud or turf war, that O’Driscoll may have been involved in a solo extortion racket, or that he was killed in retaliation for his previous “enforcer” role on behalf of the dissident group.

The appeal came as a post mortem on the body of the 37-year-old father of two, from Ballyvolane in Cork City, confirmed he died after suffering four gunshot wounds from what is believed to have been a handgun.

O’Driscoll was approached from behind by at least two men at around 4.45pm on Wednesday as he walked along the Old Commons Road, close to Blackpool’s Church of the Annunciation.

He was shot in the pelvis before collapsing. The killers then fired three shots from close range into his chest as he lay on the ground.

It is believed they fled to a silver grey Nissan Almera which was waiting nearby

O’Driscoll, who was conscious, was rushed by ambulance to Cork University Hospital but despite undergoing emergency surgery, he was pronounced dead.

Gardaí spent yesterday examining three crime scenes and four vehicles they believe are linked to the murder.

They recovered the Almera at the junction of Redemption Road and Seminary Road. They recovered a white Vauxhaul Astra estate van which was found partially burned out about five miles away, in Killeens.

They are examining a motorbike which was found burning on the main Cork to Mallow Road later to establish if it is connected to the shooting. And they have also appealed to the owner or driver of a red Opel Astra car which was seen in the Killeens area later to come forward.

Supt Comyns appealed for anyone who saw anything near any of the three crime scenes to contact gardaí at Anglesea St.

Gardaí appeal for help to trace getaway route

Eoin English

Gardaí investigating the execution of former Real IRA commander Aidan O’Driscoll have appealed to the public for help tracing the gunmen’s getaway route.

The appeal came yesterday as a post mortem on the body of the 37-year-old father-of-two, from Ballyvolane in Cork City, confirmed he died after suffering four gunshot wounds — one to the pelvic area and three to the chest — following the brutal attack in the Blackpool area of the city on Wednesday evening.

While detectives are maintaining an open mind on a motive, they will be examining O’Driscoll’s involvement in dissident republican activity. One senior source said there is a long list of suspects given that Mr O’Driscoll associated with several dangerous individuals and had crossed many people.

Detectives will be considering the possibility that the shooting may be linked to an internal dispute within the Real IRA, that it could be linked to a local drugs feud or turf war, or that it was in retaliation for his ‘enforcer’ role on behalf of the dissident group.

O’Driscoll was arrested in November 2015 for questioning about a crucifixion-style attack on a Traveller trader in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, whose feet were nailed to the floor with a nailgun. He was released without charge.

Garda forensic experts spent yesterday examining three vehicles and three separate crime scenes — the scene of the shooting, and two locations where vehicles believed linked to the shooting were found partially burned out.

They are examining a motorbike which was found burning on the main Cork to Mallow Road a short time after the shooting, to establish if it is connected to the incident. And they have also appealed to the owner or driver of a red Opel Astra which was seen in the Killeens area around the same time to come forward.

O’Driscoll was shot about 4.45pm as he walked along the Old Commons Road, close to Orchard Court. It is believed that he was approached from behind by at least two men who opened fire, hitting him in the pelvis, before they fired at least three more shots into his torso as he lay on the ground.

There is no definitive description of the gunmen but it is believed they fled the scene in a silver grey Nissan Almera. It is believed it was driven along Great William O’Brien St, and turned right up Seminary Rd, where it was abandoned at the junction of Redemption Rd, and set alight.

Superintendent Mick Comyns said gardaí rushed to the scene, where they found a man with gunshot wounds being treated on the ground by civilians.

O’Driscoll, who was conscious, was rushed by ambulance in critical condition to Cork University Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. However, he was pronounced dead around 7pm.

Real IRA shooting: Gardaí had not been alerted to any threat to dissident

Supt Comyns said the gunmen may have had another vehicle waiting for them, a white Vauxhaul Astra estate van, at Redemption Rd. It was later found abandoned and partially burned out about 8km away, near the Sunset Ridge in Killeens.

However, gardaí have yet to establish the route the gunman took after they abandoned the Almera — whether they travelled on to the main Cork to Mallow Road, or drove past Na Piarsaigh’s GAA Club, via the Blackstone Bridge to Killeens. Supt Comyns said gardaí are anxious to talk to anyone who saw anything or anyone acting suspiciously, or who was in or around the three crime scenes on Wednesday, particularly:

  • Around Blackpool Village and on the Old Commons Road between 3.30pm and 5.30pm;
  • At the junction of Redemption Road and Seminary Road around 5pm;
  • Around the Lower Monard area of Killeens some time later.

Supt Comyns said gardaí want to speak to the owner or driver of a red Opel Astra seen in the Lower Monard area to eliminate them from their enquiries.

The murder investigation team at Watercourse Road Garda station has a dedicated team working on the harvesting and examination of CCTV footage. Witnesses are being sought and interviewed, and house-to-house enquiries are underway.

Supt Comyns confirmed O’Driscoll was known to gardaí but that they had no information that his life was in danger: “Mr O’Driscoll is a son, a father, and we will be using all our resources to solve this murder. We will treat any information that any person wants to give us with confidentiality. I would appeal to people to come forward and contact gardaí on 021 452 2000.”

Residents shocked, scared, and saddened

Jessica Casey

The murder of Aidan O’Driscoll left the residents of Blackpool shocked, scared and saddened.

“It’s so sad,” local businessman Mick Moriarty said outside his barbour shop on Great William O’Brien Street.

Mick Moriarty: Blackpool needs a stronger garda presence.
Mick Moriarty: Blackpool needs a stronger garda presence.

“His family are fabulous, I knew his father alright a long time ago.

“People here say the deceased was turning his lifestyle around and he has two young children as far as I know.”

Blackpool needs a stronger garda presence, suggested Mr Moriarty, “there is no doubt about that”.

The crime seems to have been well-planned, he said, as roadworks carried out in the area for the past six weeks finished on Tuesday. If the roadworks had still been in place on Wednesday afternoon the getaway car would not have been able to flee the scene, he noted.

In the Coffee Pot on Thomas Davis Street, owner and Blackpool Community Association chairman Bill Dunlea said the community has been left shell-shocked.

“We’ve a lot of elderly people here as well, you know. They’re scared, it’s frightening for them.

“There’s a lot of elderly people living on that road. It’s a handy little town but something like this is crazy,” Mr Dunlea added.

Bill Dunlea: It’s frightening for the elderly people
Bill Dunlea: It’s frightening for the elderly people

A local publican, asking not to be named, said there had never been an incident like it. “There might have been the odd skirmish but nothing like this.”

Another resident in the area said it was a terrible situation for the community as he stood outside the Church of the Annunciation on Great William O’Brien Street.

“For something to happen so close to the church especially. And for it to have been so near our own house, our own door. It’s very sad, it’s awful altogether. I’ve never heard the like of it around this place. Society has really gone downhill.”

Another group of locals on the street, not wishing to be named, said the murder had left them afraid in their own houses.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in Blackpool, there were other things but there was never a shooting. It has got very rough from what it was. With people like that hanging around, it’s frightening for older people,” said one.

Another said: “This is the village where we all grew up, it was very respectable and it was a very friendly and neighbourly place. But like that now, all Blackpool should be cleared out and sorted. We’re a forgotten people, living here.”

“People are in shock. May he have eternal rest, the poor man and for his family. It’s very sad and I hope they catch whoever shot him.”

More on this topic

Gardaí investigating shooting down of ex-Real IRA boss make appeal for dash cam footageGardaí investigating shooting down of ex-Real IRA boss make appeal for dash cam footage

Battle for control may have sparked Cork murder; Gardaí appeal for help to trace getaway routeBattle for control may have sparked Cork murder; Gardaí appeal for help to trace getaway route

Two burnt-out cars, post mortem and witness accounts key to Aidan O'Driscoll murder, say gardaíTwo burnt-out cars, post mortem and witness accounts key to Aidan O'Driscoll murder, say gardaí


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