Detective describes trying to revive Real IRA man shot by gardaí

Witness tells inquiry he didn’t know Rónán Mac Lochlainn had been shot in chest

A detective garda who tried to revive Real IRA man Rónán Mac Lochlainn by giving him CPR did not realise at the time he had just been shot in the chest.

The detective, who is giving evidence anonymously to a commission of investigation into the fatal shooting, said he neither saw nor heard the fatal shot being discharged though it was fired inside a vehicle beside him.

“I’m not going to say I recall things that I can’t,” he told Hugh Hartnett SC, for Mac Lochlainn’s family.

“I can’t recall hearing any shots, that’s all I can say. I just don’t recall any shots.”


The dead man’s inquest has already been told three gardaí fired 12 shots on the day.

“In a scene like that we have so much happening, your attention is drawn to multiple things,” said the detective, who was working with the national surveillance unit (NSU) at the time of the May 1998 shooting.

He told the commission that, when he saw members of the emergency response unit (ERU) with medical bags around Mac Lochlainn as he lay on the roadway dying, he volunteered to carry out CPR because he was trained in the technique.

He repeatedly compressed Mac Lochlainn’s chest with the palms of his hand after the injured man complained of his chest tightening. He was “drifting off” as the gardai around him were “asking him questions to keep him alert... saying ‘stay with us, stay with us’.”

The detective said he saw a wound on Mac Lochlainn’s chin and assumed it was an entry wound, though he did not realise up to that point any shots had been fired.

“I recall having blood covering my hands,” he said, adding the memory had stayed with him. “I was doing my best at the time.”

Mr Hartnett put it to the detective garda that paramedics who arrived on the scene have already told the commission, before public hearings commenced three weeks ago, that when they arrived Mac Lochlainn was faced down on the road.

Mr Hartnett suggested this evidence was “inconsistent” with CPR having been performed. “I never saw him face down, I have no recollection of that,” the detective said.

Mac Lochlainn (28) from Ballymun, north Dublin, was shot dead during an armed robbery by a Real IRA gang on a Securicor van at Cullenmore Bends near Ashford, Co Wicklow, on May 1st, 1998.

When gardai watching the gang moved in to confront them after the botched raid began, the dead man hijacked a passing car at gunpoint and was shot inside it.

A now retired former Garda member, Frank O’Neill told the commission that in his capacity as a detective sergeant with the NSU on the day, he told members of his own unit and the ERU to move their cars from the general scene after the shooting.

“I didn’t fell the cars were relevant,” he told Mr Hartnett, before adding it was only those vehicles in his immediate vicinity well away from the shooting scene that he ordered be moved.

Under questioning from Mr Hartnett he described as a “terminological inexactitude” evidence he gave to the commission before public hearings commenced claiming he had instructed “all” of the cars be moved.

When commission chair Mary Rose Gearty asked Mr O’Neill whether giving the instruction to rank and file gardai to move cars at a scene that was being preserved after a fatality was his to issue, he said: “Well, I gave it anyway.”

When it was put to him by Mr Hartnett that the presence of 31 members of the NSU at the scene on the day was a significant number, Mr O’Neill said: “That’s an awful lot. It suggests it was a big operation; something (was) going to happen.”

The dead man’s family has questioned whether the Garda knew in advance what was about to happen and failed to intervene to prevent the crime.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times