IRA accused 'intended to pose as gardai'

A man charged with IRA membership was allegedly part of an "IRA enterprise" in which he and four co-accused intended to pose as gardai, the Special Criminal Court heard today.

A man charged with IRA membership was allegedly part of an "IRA enterprise" in which he and four co-accused intended to pose as gardai, the Special Criminal Court heard today.

Mr Stephen Birney (28) of Conquerhill Road, Clondalkin, Dublin, was arrested at Corke Abbey, Bray on October 11 in the back of a van containing items including a fluorescent jacket with 'garda' on it, two black balaclavas, three rolls of masking tape and three Motorola radios.

A stun gun, a cannister of CS gas and a makeshift strobe light was discovered in a second

vehicle at the scene, a Nissan Almera fitted with false number plates.

Five men were arrested, including the accused, and charged with membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise known as Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on October 11.

Opposing bail in the Special Criminal Court yesterday, Detective Superintendent Peter Maguire, Special Detective Unit, alleged that Mr Birney would continue to be an active member of the IRA and would commit further offences.

The superintendent said the blue Nissan was designed to give the impression that it was a garda car. A number of Mr Birney's co-accused were wearing blue shirts and blue trousers indicating "that these people intended to represent themselves as members of the Garda Siochana in pursuance of some criminal enterprise".

The superintendent told the court that an off duty officer spotted the men acting suspiciously at Corke Abbey on 12.55am on October 11, and radioed for assistance. A sixth man absconded when gardai arrived.

Superintendent Maguire said the five accused were from a "broad geographical area" and had no contact with each other socially. The witness alleged that Mr Birney's presence at the scene was solely "in the context of his membership of an unlawful organisation".

The offence with which Mr Birney is charged was "in pursuance of an enterprise on behalf of an unlawful organisation", he said.

He told the court that Chief Superintendent Phil Kelly would give evidence that Mr Birney was a member of an unlawful organisation when the matter came to trial.

He said Mr Birney refused to answer questions in custody and maintained his silence after Section 2 of the 1998 Offences Against the State Act was invoked, which allows the court to draw inferences from an accused's silence.

Cross-examined by defence counsel, Ms Orla Crowe BL, Superintendent Maguire agreed that the accused has no previous convictions and had never come within the criminal justice system.

Refusing bail, Mr Richard Johnson presiding said this "was an extremely serious charge". He noted from the Superintendent's evidence that the five accused were not socially connected with each other, Mr Birney's "attitude" in custody in refusing to answer questions under Section 2 and that at trial, a senior officer would give opinion evidence of the accused's membership of an unlawful organisation.

As a result the court is "satisfied this application should be refused" to prevent further crime, Mr Johnson added.

A supporter shouted 'Good man Stephen' as the accused was led from the dock.

Bail applications were adjourned until Friday in respect of the four co-accused. They are: Thomas Gilsen (22) Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Dublin; Patrick Brennan (38) Lindisfarne Avenue Clondalkin; Sean O'Donnell (30) Castle Drive, Sandymount and John Troy (20) Donard Avenue, Dublin.

All five were remanded in custody until Friday.

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