A 56-year-old man who gardai believe was beaten to death at midnight yesterday was a prominent mourner at the funeral of Real IRA terror chief Alan Ryan.
Larry Keane (56) suffered fatal injuries to the back of his head when he was assaulted in a laneway at midnight in Athy, Co Kildare, yesterday.
He was still alive when he was found by a passer-by but died in hospital at 5am yesterday.
Former soldier Keane had been jailed for 15 years for transporting a bomb twice the size of the Omagh bomb.
This sentence was later reduced to 10 years on appeal.
A senior source explained: "Mr Keane suffered a horrendous hiding.
"Because of the severe injuries to the back of his head, gardai first thought that they were caused by a weapon but it now seems far more likely that he was kicked to death.
"Gardai are looking at whether the assault is linked to Keane's links to dissident Republicanism.
"What is known is that Keane was photographed by detectives at the Alan Ryan funeral last September when he stood beside the colour party outside the church.
"And he has been trading off his reputation as a Republican hardman around Athy for years, even though he has become frail in recent times."
This did not stop Keane being involved in a number of assaults and he received a six-month suspended sentence last November for his role in assaulting a local man.
In December 1998, Keane, a father-of-six from Cloney, Athy, Co Kildare, pleaded guilty to having 980lb of an improvised explosive mixture, a timer power unit, an electrical detonator, two improvised booster tubes and an improvised detonating cord with intent to endanger life.
The bomb was destined for England.
The home-made explosives were packed into a silage bag which filled the boot of a stolen red BMW car that Keane was driving.