Two Mayo brothers who were caught making a bomb in their shed after armed gardai raided their family home have each been sentenced to five and a half years in prison, with the final two and a half years suspended, by the Special Criminal Court.
Last month, Colin Mannion (37) and his brother Brian Mannion (34), of Burriscarra, Clogher, Claremorris pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of explosive substances RDX, PETN, one loaded detonator, two unloaded detonators and three electrical component parts at their home on June 9, 2012.
The Mannion brothers were also charged with membership of an unlawful organisation within the State, namely Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA on the same date.
The State previously entered a nolle prosequi on each man’s charge of IRA membership.
Before handing down sentence today, Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Martin Nolan and Judge Flann Brennan, read the facts of the case to the court.
Mr Justice Hunt said at yesterday’s sentence hearing, Inspector Gary Walsh, of Castlebar Garda Station, told the court that in May 2012 an investigation concerning the unlawful possession and manufacture of explosives in relation to IRA activity was undertaken by Gardaí.
Insp Walsh entered the property on June 9 where he met with Denis Mannion, the father of the two accused men, who gave him access to the premises and the two accused men were found in the shed.
The court heard that Gardaí preserved two separate scenes, the shed and the home of the parents of the two men.
A “Jobox”, which is a large type of metal container box, was found in the shed. It contained certain items including a funnel, one complete detonator, two incomplete detonators, a Tupperware lunch box which contained a white substance which was later analysed to be RDX and PETN, Bell Wire, a brush used to sweep explosives into detonators, an infra red electronic switch, a light sensitive electronic switch, coffee filters and white spirits.
Mr Justice Hunt said today that it appeared that both accused men had “relevant qualifications” and “skills in such matters”. The court previously heard that Colin Mannion is a qualified tool maker with some engineering experience and Brian Mannion is a qualified plumber.
Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said the maximum sentence in respect of each count was 14 years in prison.
“Thankfully due to the intervention of Gardaí no harm resulted from these items but it is clear from the process that was underway, the finished article would have carried serious consequences. The conduct was intentional no doubt,” he said.
The judge said the court assessed that the appropriate sentence was eight years imprisonment for each of the men. However, he said that there was evidence to lessen the culpability of the two men including the fact that their involvement in this incident was for no more than two to three months and they had not been the “initial target” of the surveillance operation.
Mitigation factors in sentencing, Mr Justice Hunt said, were their guilty pleas and their family circumstances.
“There is a serious and ongoing illness being suffered by a family member over a period of a few years,” he said.
The judge said the men’s bail conditions had been “relaxed” over the years and during this time each had applied themselves in a “productive and law-abiding manner.”
He said that Colin Mannion and Brian Mannion do not have any relevant or serious criminal convictions and there was evidence of “positive good character prior to these offences.”
The court must impose a custodial sentence and each of the accused must serve a period of time in custody for their wrongdoing, he said.
Mr Justice Hunt then sentenced each man to five and a half years in prison, with the final two and a half years suspended indefinitely on the basis of the sworn undertaking given in court by the two men yesterday.
Colin Mannion and Brian Mannion each took the stand at yesterday’s sentence hearing, where they undertook to the three-judge, non-jury court to refrain from activities in the future and not associate with members of subversive or paramilitary organisations.
“These oaths are peculiar to cases in this court and are not offered very frequently and so they must be considered carefully,” he said.
The judge said he was satisfied that each man’s remorse was “genuine” and the court accepted such undertakings.
The sentence was backdated to June 7, 2017.