Shane Rowan, a convicted IRA member who was caught with the rifles used in the 2016 Regency Hotel murder of gangster David Byrne, broke his silence this week and claimed he bought them for a possible republican commemoration of the centenary of 1916.

Rowan, 46, from Killygordon, Co Donegal, agreed to pay €30,000 for the weapons for the republican cause.

Rowan spoke to the Irish Daily Star and the Irish Mirror about his direct involvement in transporting the assault rifles used in the killing of Byrne in a deadly feud between the Kinahan and Hutch criminal gangs at a boxing weigh-in at the hotel in Dublin in 2016.

Byrne was a member of the notorious Kinahan gang. Gerry “The Monk” Hutch, leader of his own gang, has been tried for the murder and he awaits a verdict from the Special Criminal Court due to be announced on April 17.

Evidence of the guns being given to Rowan a month after the attack on Byrne was given during the Hutch trial. Rowan, who was captured in a car with the guns in March 2016, served five and a half years for possession of them and for membership in the IRA.

He told the papers in the same interview that he was “caught red-handed” transporting the three rifles from the Malahide industrial estate in north Dublin.

"Now normally if I was 100 percent certain that they were the same weapons [used in the Regency] I wouldn’t have been down in Dublin getting them," Rowan said.

"They would have been dropped into the north,” he said. “But if they had told us out straight that it was the same weapons then I would still have taken them. A weapon is a weapon, let’s be real here.”

He added: “We’re in that game. I’m not going to question every weapon I get. It’s just not done. No armed group would ever question the background of something."

Gardaí apprehended Rowan in Slane, Co Meath, and later determined that the rifles discovered in the boot of his car were the same ones used by the team that shot and killed Byrne on February 5, 2016.

Rowan claimed he agreed to pay the Hutch gang €10,000 per rifle, planning to then “put them to bed” by burying them, until they might one day be used. However, when the job went “tits up” the money was never paid.

He said he believed the weapons would benefit what he called his “unit.” He also said he had no association with the Hutch or Kinahan gangs and insisted the “feud has nothing to do with me.”

Rowan, who admitted he was a member of the IRA, outlined that he was getting a bit of firepower for his “unit.” Small weaponry was no use when targeting members of the security forces.

He suggested the weapons might even have been used to commemorate the 1916 centenary in 2016.

He said, “I was running my own show...coming up to 2016 and your grandad, your grannies, and their great-granddads might have been involved back in the day...

“When I’m sitting on my deathbed at least I can say I done something, rightly or wrongly as you say for your country. At least I can say what my granddad and granny's relatives would have done back in the day, well at least I can say one of us stood up a generation later and was trying to do something.”

*This column first appeared in the February 15 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.