A man who put an incendiary device on a Dublin-bound bus and made bomb threats during the State visit of the Queen five years ago has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years.
Donal Billings, aged 66, of St Bridget’s Court, Drumlish, Co Longford, was last month found guilty by the three judge, non-jury Special Criminal Court of the unlawful possession of an explosive substance at Longford railway station car park on May 16, 2011.
Speaking after the sentencing yesterday, Detective Inspector Pat Finlay, of Longford Garda Station, said the investigation shows the challenges gardaí face in relation to individuals intent on disrupting State visits.
Billings was further convicted of four offences, under the Criminal Law Act of 1976, of knowingly making false reports tending to show an offence had been committed.
He was found guilty of making a false report within the State on May 16, 2011, that bombs had been placed at Busáras in Dublin and at Sinn Féin’s headquarters.
He was convicted of making a false report on May 18 that two mortars were set for Dublin Castle, and with making a false report on May 20 that two bombs had been placed in the toilets at Cork Airport.
At the time, the Queen was visiting the country.
Mr Justice Tony Huntsaid Billings was “perfectly entitled to hold a low opinion” of the Queen and her visit to Ireland, but “not entitled to express such an opinion by engaging in criminality”.
On May 16, 2011, a call was made to Longford Garda Station. The caller said there was a bomb on a Dublin-bound Corduff bus, a second bomb on a bus at Busáras, and a third bomb at Sinn Féin headquarters in Dublin.
The Corduff travel bus was stopped on Station Rd, Maynooth, and searched by gardaí, who found a suspicious object, comprised of gunpowder and a two-litre bottle of petrol, in the luggage compartment.
Mr Justice Hunt said Billings had placed a highly dangerous explosive on a public transport vehicle containing an innocent driver and many passengers.
This was an “outrageous, highly irresponsible, and dangerous act” that “recklessly exposed passengers, staff, and members of the emergency services to very significant risk of serious injury or death”, said the judge. The bomb was intended to give credence to further hoax calls Billings planned to make, said the judge.
After finding the bomb on the Corduff bus, gardaí also searched the Sinn Féin offices in Dublin and another bus. Nothing was found.
A further call was made on May 18, threatening that two mortars were set at Dublin Castle for 8pm that day. The time and place coincided with a State banquet in the castle for the Queen.
The caller said: “I’m a member of the Republican Brotherhood, Squad A. Two mortars are set for Dublin Castle at 8pm.
“This is for the queen of blood and war of Iraq.”
Searches were carried out but nothing was found.
A third call, made at 3.15pm on May 20, claimed there were two bombs at Cork Airport, where the Queen was due to fly out.
Nothing was found in a search.
Billings has two previous convictions, from Northern Ireland in 1973, for possession of explosives.
Mr Justice Hunt said mitigating factors included his contribution to the smooth running of the trial and his age.
In addition to the eight-and-a-half-year sentence for the explosives offence, Billings was sentenced to one, two, three, and four years, respectively, for each of the threatening phone calls.
The sentences are to run concurrently and were backdated to September 17.
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