Man cleared of IRA membership charge

A Co Donegal man walked free from the Special Criminal Court in Dublin today after he was cleared of an IRA membership charge.

Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the three-judge, non-jury court, said that while the court was satisfied that Chief Superintendent Terry Mc Ginn believed that Philip McGavigan was a member of the IRA on February 2, 2010, the court must have reasonable doubt in relation to that belief having regard to other evidence.

The court said that other evidence included a background report prepared by another garda which said that McGavigan had no association with any dissident republican personnel.

Chief Supt McGinn had told the court during the trial that her belief was based on confidential information from several sources and she added that she did not want to disclose those sources.

The court had heard that McGavigan told gardaí that he had travelled to an isolated rural house, which had been placed under surveillance by armed detectives, to poach deer by lamp light.

Mr Justice Butler said that the court found McGavigan’s account to be “incredible.” The judge said that it would appear that “some form of criminal activity was intercepted by the gardaí that evening” and it commended the gardaí for their bravery and professionalism.

McGavigan (aged 50), of Coneyburrow, Lifford had pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation, namely the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA, on February 2 last year.

Chief Supt McGinn said during the trial that in 2009 gardaí in Co Donegal targetted an IRA group in the Lifford, Sion Mills and Stranorlar area which was involved in various activities, including tiger kidnappings and shootings.

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