Belfast Telegraph

Dissident leader jailed for more than 11 years over Prince Charles bomb plot

By Daniel Hickey

A dissident republican leader convicted of plotting to bomb Prince Charles during his State visit to the Republic in 2015 has been jailed for more than 11 years.

Co Louth man Seamus McGrane (63), leader of a splinter dissident group formed in 2008 and known as Oglaigh na hEireann, is only the second person to be convicted of directing terrorism in the Republic. His ally Michael McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in 2003 for the same offence.

In October the Special Criminal Court in Dublin found that McGrane discussed an operation involving explosives in the run-up to Charles' visit two years ago.

He was also found guilty by the three-judge court of membership of the IRA and received over six years on that charge.

Presiding judge Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy noted that the court had received a letter from Fianna Fail former minister Eamon O'Cuiv TD saying McGrane was "fully supportive" of his efforts to facilitate the peace process.

The judge said, however, that the TD's opinions were "unconvincing" in light of McGrane's history; he had two previous terrorism convictions.

In October the court heard evidence from two audio recordings, from April and May 2015, of McGrane and Donal O'Coisdealbha in conversation in the snug of The Coachman's Inn on the Airport Road in Dublin - a pub that had been bugged by Garda detectives.

McGrane had issued instructions to O'Coisdealbha to contact a person he referred to as the "motorbike man" to collect ingredients required to manufacture explosives.

The recording from May also referred to a "military operation" of significance and "the main attack" on May 19, the date Prince Charles was due to visit. McGrane instructed O'Coisdealbha that the operation should not be an "embarrassment" and that it was not to occur in Sligo or Galway, where Prince Charles was due to visit.

The target of the attack, the trial was told, was to be the Cross of Sacrifice, a monument in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin commemorating Irish and British soldiers who fought in World War One.

McGrane had also described in the recordings an attack on Palace Barracks - the Co Down headquarters of MI5 - on April 12, 2010, and a bomb on a railway line.

The defendant was arrested six days before the planned attack. Searches related to the plot were then conducted at McGrane's home in Dromiskin and an adjoining property at the back of his house, as well as a house at Harbour Court in Courttown, Co Wexford, and a locker at Maynooth University.

A "significant amount" of explosive material was found in these locations, Ms Justice Kennedy said. There were detonators, glucose, ammunition and mortars. In Harbour Court detectives found a water butt containing rockets and Semtex.

At Maynooth University, a time and power unit and a broken circuit board were found in a specific locker which only O'Coisdealbha had access to.

In November last year O'Coisdealbha (25), of Abbeyfield, Killester, Dublin, pleaded guilty to IRA membership in May 2015. He was jailed for five-and-a-half years.

McGrane's sentences for directing a terrorist organisation and for IRA membership are to run concurrently.

Speaking later outside the Criminal Courts of Justice, Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Maguire of the Special Detective Unit (SDU), said that it was a "very significant conviction".

He said that while the sentence was not something he wanted to comment on, he did want to acknowledge the work that had gone into the operation from the investigative team in the SDU and the Crime and Security Unit.

Belfast Telegraph

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