Sgt: presence of firearms 'possible and probable', court told

A Detective Sergeant who led a garda raid on a house in Limerick where a suspected Continuity IRA meeting was taking place told the Special Criminal Court in Dublin today that he believed it was "possible and probable" that firearms were in the house when he ordered another garda to break down the front door.

A Detective Sergeant who led a garda raid on a house in Limerick where a suspected Continuity IRA meeting was taking place told the Special Criminal Court in Dublin today that he believed it was "possible and probable" that firearms were in the house when he ordered another garda to break down the front door.

Detective Sergeant John Heelan said that he believed it was necessary to break down the front door to "protect life and preserve evidence".

Cross examined by Mr Donagh Mc Donagh SC , for one of the accused Patrick Kenneally, the Detective Sergeant said: "I considered the lives of both the gardai and the people in the house to be at risk."

"The consideration in my mind was that it was possible and probable that firearms may have been present in the house," he added.

Cross examined by Mr John Phelan SC, for the accused Des Long, Detective Sergeant Heelan said that he was wearing protective body armour and had his firearm drawn when he entered the house at Shanabooley Road. He said that no weapons or ammunition were found in the house.

The court has heard that seven men were arrested when a large party of gardai raided a house in the Shanabooley Road area of Limerick in December 2001.

Prosecuting counsel Mr John Edwards SC has told the court that gardai found a note in the house which referred to firearms and had other references to a person "wanted for knee cap job" and to a "safe house". He said the unlawful organisation in the case was the Continuity IRA.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Kelly gave evidence earlier in the trial that in his opinion, each of the seven accused was a member of an unlawful organisation on December 17, 2001.

It was the 12th day of the trial of the seven accused who have pleaded not guilty to a charge that on December 17, 2001, within the State, they were members of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann.

They are Des Long (age 62), Vice President of Republican Sinn Fein, of Shannon Banks, Limerick, Patrick Kenneally (aged 58), of Crusheen, Co Clare, Patrick O' Shea (aged 54) of Sir Harry's Mall, Limerick, Gerard "Ger" Brommell (aged 43), of Rostura Crescent, Woodview Park, Limerick, Robert Mc Namara (aged 59), of St Michael's Avenue, Tipperary, Joseph "Tiny" Lynch (aged 61), of Beechgrove Avenue, Ballinacurra Weston, Limerick and Christopher Dunne (aged 28), of Donnellan Buildings, Rosbrien, Limerick.

It is the biggest ever trial of dissident republicans ever held at the Special Criminal Court.

Detective Garda Padraig Clarke, Henry St, told the court that he used a sledgehammer to break down the front door of the house at Shanabooley Road. The Detective Garda said that Detective Sergeant Heelan knocked on the door and called out that gardai were there with a warrant to search the house and to open the door.

The Detective Sergeant then stepped back and Detective Garda Clarke said he forced open the door with the sledgehammer. He said that after knocking through the door panel a number of gardai entered the house and he followed them.

The trial is continuing.

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