Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan said she was not endorsing “the use of physical force” when she wrote to the Courts Service asking that the period of time a dissident republican was spending on remand be cut.
Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy described as “puzzling” a letter sent by the Dublin Central TD in advance of Donal Ó Coisdealbha’s bail hearing last year.
In the letter, Ms O’Sullivan described Ó Coisdealbha, arrested on explosives charges in the run-up to the royal visit last year, as a “fine, intelligent, articulate, and hardworking young man”. She said she knew his mother and told RTÉ radio yesterday he “would like to put this [his crime] behind him when he finishes his sentence”.
Ó Coisdealbha, aged 25, from Abbeyfield, Killester, Co Dublin, who admitted being a member of a dissident republican organisation, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison earlier this week.
Speaking on Morning Ireland, Ms O’Sullivan said she was not aware the letter would be raised at the time of sentencing and was “absolutely not aware” when she sent the letter that he had pleaded guilty.
“I wrote that letter in terms of the bail hearing… It is very distressing that it is being taken as an endorsement of violence and the use of physical force, as anyone who knows me and the work I do would be very clear that I would not endorse the use of force,” she said.
Ms O’Sullivan said she sent the letter to the Courts Service as she has done work with prisoners on both sides of the border who have spent unnecessarily long periods on remand in prisons.
She said Ms Justice Kennedy had “taken a major leap in her surmising” and “she put two and two together and got 140 and not four”.
During the Special Criminal Court hearing, Ms Justice Kennedy said they could only surmise Ms O’Sullivan’s letter came about in circumstances where the writer was unaware of Ó Coisdealbha’s decision to plead guilty.
He was arrested in a Garda operation that recovered explosive devices, improvised rockets, detonators, timing units, and Semtex, days before the visit of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla to Ireland in May 2015.
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