A leader of the 'New IRA' alliance from Northern Ireland is believed to have ordered the pub car park hit on dissident terrorist Peter Butterly.
Butterly (35), the former head of the Real IRA in the Louth region, had been sidelined by the alliance in recent months because they suspected he had pocketed some of their funds. Gardai are satisfied the Armagh-based leader chose a Dublin northside unit to carry out the shooting.
Butterly was lured to his death after receiving a phone call to meet some of his former associates. Gardai were last night continuing to question five men, two from Balbriggan and the others from Raheny, Tallaght and Blanchardstown, about the killing.
All five were detained near the car park of the Huntsman Inn in Gormanston, Co Meath, where Butterly was shot dead around 2pm on Wednesday.
They were arrested by armed members of the Emergency Response Unit and National Surveillance Unit, who were monitoring the movements of some of the suspects. The officers did not see the shooting, but were quickly on the scene.
Butterly was sitting in his Renault Megane when two men drove into the car park in a Toyota Corolla. One of the attackers fired two shots into the Megane, and as Butterly struggled to get out and flee two further shots were fired.
He fell to the ground as the two men sped off, throwing a 9mm gun from the car and over a hedge.
The Corolla was rammed by a Garda car and two suspects, aged 31 and 22, were arrested. Two other men were detained when officers stopped an Opel car, and the fifth man was held after he arrived at the scene on foot. The three are aged 42, 33 and 28.
Two of the suspects are well-known to gardai as suspected dissidents and have been questioned in the past about other incidents including attacks ordered by another Real IRA faction boss, Alan Ryan, who was shot dead by drug traffickers last September.
Gardai believe two of the attackers were tasked with carrying out the shooting, two with setting fire to the getaway car and disposing of the weapon, and the fifth was deployed as a lookout.
Anti-terrorist officers believe Wednesday's murder is the latest in a series of shootings carried out for the alliance leadership.
They want to put their own discipline on members of the Real IRA, who were thought to have been skimming profits from extortion and other fundraising crimes.
The formation of the alliance last summer has resulted in an increase in violence in Northern Ireland, including the murder of prison officer David Black and the foiled mortar bomb attack on a police station in Londonderry last weekend.
Some of the former Provisionals who joined the Real IRA and Republican Action Against Drugs have been blamed for the murder of PSNI constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh in 2011 and the attempted murder of another constable and GAA player, Peadar Heffron, in Antrim in 2010.
The arrest of four men within a minute of Peter Butterly’s murder is further proof that the gardai have well-established intelligence on their activities. A Garda Emergency Response Unit team and the National Surveillance Unit are understood to have been in the area after receiving a tip-off that a number of senior republicans were planning to meet. However, the murder was unexpected and as soon as it went down, the ERU moved in and arrested four men, all of whom are dissident gang members. Inevitably, the dead man's cronies will claim he was set up by police. But the truth is the only people doing the setting up of murder targets are the republicans themselves. Paul Williams