Judgement reserved in 'IRA membership' case

The Court of Criminal Appeal has reserved judgement on appeals by five Dublin men, described by a garda chief superintendent as members of the Dublin Brigade of the Provisional IRA, against their convictions for membership of an illegal organisation.

The three-judge court, presided over by Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, today heard closing legal submissions on behalf of the five men and for the DPP after which Mr Justice Hardiman said the court would give judgement at a later date.

The men were each jailed for four years at the Special Criminal Court on February 21 last year for membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on October 11, 2002.

The appellants are Thomas Gilson (aged 25), of Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght; Patrick Brennan (aged 42), of Lindisfarne Avenue, Clondalkin; Sean O' Donnell (aged 33), of Castle Drive, Sandymount; John Troy (aged 26), of Donard Ave and Stephen Birney (aged 32), of Conquerhill Road, Clontarf.

After conviction, Chief Superintendent Peter Maguire told the SCC that all the men were members of the Provisional IRA, were attached to that organisation's Dublin Brigade and were answerable directly to its leadership.

During the 24-day trial, the court heard the men were arrested after an off-duty Special Branch detective, detective garda Michael Masterson, noticed suspicious activity around three vehicles - a Nissan Almera car, a Nissan Micra car and a van.

The court heard gardaí recovered a large quantity of Sinn Féin posters, including election posters for Sinn Féin TD Mr Aengus O'Snodaigh, from the Nissan Almera car in which they also found a stun gun, a CS gas canister, a blue flashing light and a beacon.

Gardaí also found two pick axe handles, a lump hammer, three portable radios , cable ties, balaclavas and fake Garda jacket in the van. Four of the men were found seated on the floor of the van and two of them, Gilson and O' Donnell, were dressed in fake garda uniforms, the trial was told.

Chief superintendent Philip Kelly, the head of the Garda Special Branch, told the trial that he believed each man was a member of an unlawful organisation.

In their appeal, the man are challenging the admissibility of that opinion evidence and they are also alleging their arrests were unlawful.

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