A dissident republican has been shot dead in an ambush at a pub car park following an internal split within the terrorist group.
Peter Butterly (35) was murdered yesterday outside the Huntsman Inn at Gormanston, Co Meath.
Gardai received an early break in the murder probe when Special Branch detectives, who were nearby, immediately responded. They arrested five men in the area and recovered a firearm.
Four of the arrested men, all in their 20s, were attempting to flee in a car from the murder scene while the fifth person, in his 40s, was arrested at the pub.
Gardai are investigating the theory that Butterly was ambushed at the car park of the popular pub when he was shot dead.
Officers are satisfied that the murder of Butterly, a married father-of-three, is linked to an internal feud between dissidents.
He was an associate of Real IRA boss and convicted criminal Alan Ryan, who was shot dead in north Dublin last year as part of the ongoing feud.
Butterly (35) had been one of four leaders of the Real IRA before the group became part of the New IRA alliance formed last summer.
Since then, Butterly, from Dunleer, Co Louth, was marginalised by the leadership of the alliance.
It is believed he had been accused by the alliance of holding on to cash raised through extortion and “fundraising” activities.
At least two bullets struck a parked Laguna vehicle during the gun attack.
Butterly collapsed from his injuries at the corner of the pub car park alongside a clothes bin.
A neighbour living alongside the pub said: “I was just getting out of my car here at 2.05pm and heard four gunshots.
“You hear a lot of gunshots now and then with the nearby army camp, but these were a lot closer.
“We knew these shots were near us. A few minutes later it was all Garda sirens,” the resident added.
The murder is believed part of a purge by the new alliance leadership of Real IRA members.
Butterly was regarded by Garda anti-terrorist officers as the leader of the Real IRA faction operating in the north Louth area.
In the past few months, Garda intelligence gathered that he had been sidelined by the New IRA alliance, which includes former Provisional IRA activists, Derry-based Republican Action Against Drugs and Real IRA.
The suspects were being questioned last night at Garda stations in north Dublin under the Offences Against the State Act.
The ‘New IRA’ blamed for Peter Butterly’s murder was responsible for murdering prison officer David Black near Lurgan last October and for the foiled mortar bomb attack in Londonderry this week. Butterly was arrested when gardai seized explosives and weapons in 2010. But the case collapsed when the Irish Supreme Court ruled his arrest warrant was unconstitutional.