Gardai feared RIRA heist gang planned to kidnap U2 manager
The kidnap of former U2 manager Paul McGuinness was considered a possibility by gardai keeping two Real IRA vans under surveillance.
Superintendent Martin Harrington has told the MacLochlainn Inquiry that this was one of the possibilities discussed by members of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) as the vans were being followed.
Supt Harrington also denied to the Inquiry that he or any other garda had kicked a prisoner in the head at the scene.
The inquiry is examining the circumstances around the fatal shooting by gardai of Real IRA member Ronan MacLochlainn (28), from Ballymun, who died at the scene of a botched armed robbery near Ashford, Co Wicklow on May 1, 1998.
Supt Harrington, who was a detective garda with the ERU at the time, described how the two vans had been followed from Dublin to Ashford by the National Surveillance Unit with back up from the ERU.
ERU vehicles met in the carpark of Hunter's Hotel near Ashford around 16.15pm on May 1 to discuss the operation but no-one knew what was happening, he stressed.
Supt Harrington remembered one of the group, but he did not remember who, asking if there were any high-profile targets living in the area who could be kidnapped. "Someone mentioned U2 manager Paul McGuinness. They thought he lived in the area," he added.
The Superintendent denied to the Inquiry that when he arrived at the scene of the robbery that he or any other garda had kicked a prisoner in the head as he lay handcuffed on the ground. He said when he arrived at the scene of the robbery he had pulled a masked man from a car and there was a violent struggle.
Dara Hayes, for the Commission, said the raider, Saoirse Breathnach, would give evidence to the inquiry later that he had been assaulted when he was spreadeagled on the ground. Mr Hayes also said a civilian witness would give evidence of seeing a man with a gun standing over a handcuffed man on the ground and another man coming over to kick the man on the ground. Supt Harrington responded: "I absolutely did not lay a hand on him once he was on the ground."