Judgment reserved in suspected IRA membership case

The Special Criminal Court has reserved its judgment in the trial of a 21-year-old Dublin man who denies being a member of the IRA.

The three-judge court will deliver its judgement on June 16 following the four-day trial of Vincent Kelly of Empress Place, Ballybough, Dublin, who was arrested after gardaí found a gun inside a van in north Dublin.

He has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA, on June 7, 2005.

In evidence today a garda told the court the accused had told her he was “going to the chipper” when she approached him after he got out of a white Astra van, which had pulled over on the Malahide Road in Dublin on the evening of June 7, 2005.

Garda Anna Marie Gilmartin told Mr Tom O’Connell SC, prosecuting, she asked the accused to return to the van where she observed the driver as well as another unknown man in the back.

She said the driver later got out of the van and opened the back door, at which stage a third man ran across the road and escaped over the railings of a nearby school.

The witness said she later drove the van back to Clontarf Garda Station, where she searched it with a colleague.

In the front passenger-side door she found what she believed to be a bottle of CS gas. She later searched the back of the van, where she found two balaclavas, a pair of gloves and a gun partially concealed by another pair of gloves.

Under cross-examination from Mr Diarmaid McGuinness SC, defending, she agreed there had been nothing unusual about the way Mr Kelly was dressed and she said he had no gloves on his hands at any stage.

She also agreed the unknown man in the back of the van was immediately behind the driver’s seat in the position where she subsequently found the gloves and the gun.

Summing up the case for the prosecution Mr Remy Farrell BL (with Mr O’Connell) said the court was entitled to draw inferences from the activities and associations of the accused.

He said that while the accused himself was not in possession of the canister, the gloves and the gun, he was associated with persons who had those items available to them.

However, Mr McGuinness said that out of seven people who were stopped by the gardaí that day his client had been singled out as the only one to face a charge of membership (of an illegal organisation.)

He said the court was entitled to draw an inference from that, that there was no evidence at all to sustain the proposition that what was involved that night was an IRA operation.

He also rejected an assertion by the prosecution that a tee-shirt the accused was wearing under his jumper bearing the words Óglaigh na hÉireann was almost akin to an admission of his guilt.

He said it was evidently an old tee-shirt that had been worn and was not evidence of membership on June 7, 2005.

He said the prosecution had not sought to establish that the tee-shirt was a fashion garment exclusively available to members of the IRA and he said it was simply a tee-shirt that was likely to have been purchased in a shop, or perhaps given as a gift.

Mr Justice Richard Johnson remanded Mr Kelly on continuing bail until June 16.

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