Four loaded weapons “primed, armed and ready” for use were among an arsenal of 15 firearms found at an “elaborate” industrial unit purporting to be a legitimate business, writes Security Correspondent Cormac O'Keeffe.
Two men, Jonathan Harding and James Walsh, have pleaded guilty to possession of the firearms in suspicious circumstances at the Special Criminal Court.
Harding, aged 45, with an address at McNeill Court, Sallins, Co Kildare, and Walsh, aged 33, with an address at Wheatfield Avenue and Neilstown Drive in Clondalkin, west Dublin, are due to be sentenced on January 30.
The non-jury court was given details yesterday of the firepower seized at a unit of Greenogue Business Park, Rathcoole, south Dublin, on January 24, 2017, following a surveillance operation by the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
The arsenal, comprising 15 firearms, included:
Prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC said the firearms offences were at the “higher end of the scale”.
He said this was given the nature of the firearms, the “sheer volume” of them, the fact that four were “primed, armed and ready to be utilised” and that the unloaded weapons were each in sealed bags also containing relevant ammunition and that two weapons had been threaded to allow silencers to be attached.
Det Insp Noel Browne of the DOCB said he received information on January 23 and set up a surveillance operation to follow the movements of Harding and another unnamed man referred to as Mr B.
Driving a van, Harding met Mr B at a nearby Texaco petrol station on the morning of January 24. Mr B had arrived in a red Jaguar.
DI Browne said Harding drove the van, with Mr B as a passenger, in a “circuitous route” to a block in the Greenogue Business Park and that they entered some units.
Soon after, they re-emerged and drove away. After securing a search warrant, DI Browne and other officers entered the unit, where they found Walsh.
In an upstairs loft loaded firearms were laid out on some cardboard. There were gloves and box cutters on another piece of cardboard and an arsenal of fireams and ammunition in two cardboard boxes.
Det Insp Browne said that given the “urgent and pressing” nature of the find and his concerns for public safety he ordered the interception of the van driven by Harding.
He said ballistic tests found that all the weapons were in “excellent working order” and that four of them were loaded and “ready for imminent use”.
Gardaí also recovered two tracking devices and a van customised with a concealed compartment where some ammunition was found.
Det Insp Browne said an “elaborate” process had been put in place to give the pretence the unit was a wing of a legitimate UK haulage company. He said the reception had shelves with lever arch files and there was a forklift in the main floor.
He said two newspapers were found with Walsh’s fingerprints. DNA matching Harding was found on the box cutters and DNA matching Walsh on plastic cups.
DI Browne said Harding had a previous six-year sentence for drug supply, while Walsh had previous convictions for public order offences.
He said neither Harding, a father of five, nor Walsh, a dad of two, were a “prime mover”, but that they were “willing” participants.
Sean Guerin, defending Harding, and Michael Bowman, defending Walsh, said their clients had entered an early plea. Mr Bowman said there were difficult circumstances in his client’s family life, including drug addiction, drug debt and suicide.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, adjourned sentencing to January 30.
This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.