Gardai feared cash raid gang was planning to plant bomb
Gardai believed an IRA gang may have been planning a bomb attack aimed at derailing the peace process on the day Ronan MacLochlainn was shot dead.
The Real IRA activist, from Dublin, was killed by members of the Garda's Emergency Response Unit, during a botched attempt by a gang to hold up a Securicor van near Ashford in Co Wicklow in 1998.
The van was transporting around £300,000 in cash from Wicklow to Dublin.
MacLochlainn was part of a Real IRA gang which had been under watch by the garda national surveillance unit.
This culminated in an operation - code named 'Morrison' - which involved members of the Emergency Response Unit and the Special Branch.
On the second day of public hearings by the MacLochlainn Inquiry in Dublin yesterday, former Assistant Commissioner Dermot Jennings said while he was aware of MacLochlainn through intelligence, gardai were not following him that day. They were instead following Paschal Burke, a convicted member of the Provisional IRA.
He said it had become clear to them that Burke had defected to the Real IRA.
Gardai were monitoring the gang on the day in question, May 1, because of a van linked to Burke.
"Once Paschal Burke was on the move, the aerials went up. He was an important guy," he said.
"It was at a time when we had real concerns that people from the Provisional IRA were moving into this new organisation known as the Real IRA.
"With his convictions for terrorist activity in the late 80s, he was naturally a very important target for us.
"He defected to the Real IRA. The aim of this new organisation was to wreck the peace process.
"That was clear in some of their many attempted, and some successful, bombings that they carried out.
"In the mind of this group, [Martin] McGuinness and [Gerry] Adams were traitors to what they called 'the cause'."
He told the Inquiry the "main thrust" of their activities were bombs, "made for one reason, that's to kill and murder".