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Real IRA bid to kidnap former U2 boss feared

By Clodagh Sheehy

Published 04/11/2015

Manager: Paul McGuinness
Manager: Paul McGuinness

The kidnap of former U2 manager Paul McGuinness was considered a possibility by gardai who were keeping two Real IRA vans under surveillance.

Superintendent Martin Harrington has told an inquiry in the Republic that this was one of the possibilities discussed by members of the Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU) as the vans were being followed.

Supt Harrington also denied that he or any other garda had kicked a prisoner in the head during the operation.

The inquiry is examining the circumstances around the fatal shooting by gardai of Real IRA member Ronan MacLochlainn (28) from Ballymun, Dublin, who died at the scene of a botched armed robbery near Ashford, Co Wicklow, on May 1, 1998.

Supt Harrington, 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 car park of Hunter's Hotel near Ashford at around 4.15pm 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 kicked a prisoner in the head as he lay handcuffed on the ground.

Dr Hayes, BL for the Commission, said the raider, Saoirse Breathnach, would give evidence to the inquiry later that he was assaulted when he was on the ground. He would say there had been no struggle to get him out of the car, that he got out himself and lay on the ground.

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