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Garda 1998 IRA gang sting 'was named after Van Morrison'

By Staff Reporter

Published 28/10/2015

Van Morrison performs at his birthday concert in Cyprus Avenue in east Belfast
Van Morrison performs at his birthday concert in Cyprus Avenue in east Belfast

A Garda surveillance operation which ended in a Real IRA man being shot dead may have been called after singer Van Morrison, it has emerged.

"Operation Morrison" involved surveillance on a six-man gang in the weeks leading up to a botched armed robbery near Ashford, Co Wicklow, in which one of the gang was shot dead by gardai.

A detective giving evidence to the MacLochlainn Inquiry has revealed that the name of the Garda operation may have been chosen at the time from the name of the singer.

The inquiry was ordered by the Irish Government last year to investigate the death of Real IRA member Ronan McLochlainn (28), from Ballymun, during the robbery on May 1, 1998.

The detective garda identified as DG45 said he had heard the operation name "might have been because of Van Morrison".

He also explained that people under surveillance would be given code names but he did not have any role in the choice of these names.

The detective had been working with the Garda National Surveillance Unit at the time and he described surveillance on a van parked at Heuston Station in Dublin a week before the Ashford attempted robbery.

He told the inquiry he watched a man, who he later found out to be Ronan MacLochlainn, wearing gloves and taking a sports bag from a van at the station on April 24, 1998. Wearing gloves, DG45 said, "clearly would have shown a forensic awareness".

The vehicle was one of two vans subsequently used in the botched robbery the following week. The inquiry heard that the van had been bought by the gang for £450 in the weeks before the robbery attempt.

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