Two jailed for IRA membership

A leading Sinn Féin member and a man who engaged in patrols against drug dealers were today sentenced to four years imprisonment for IRA membership.

A leading Sinn Féin member and a man who engaged in patrols against drug dealers were today sentenced to four years imprisonment for IRA membership.

Niall Binead, 35, of Faughart Road, Crumlin, and Kenneth Donohoe, 26, of Sundale Avenue, Mountain View, Tallaght, had been found guilty of membership of an illegal organisation at the Special Criminal Court on November 18.

Mr Binead, a father of four, had been found with documents in his house which included surveillance details on a number of politicians and Dublin criminals.

He was a branch secretary with Sinn Féin and also a key election worker for party TD Aengus O’Snodaigh.

In the Dáil, opposition leader Enda Kenny raised the “very serious implications” of the Special Criminal Court verdicts and how one convicted IRA member had “a very close association with a member of the House”.

Mr Kenny claimed that up to 20 Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs had been under surveillance but only found out through the newspapers.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he had no knowledge of the spying activities other than what came out in court today.

He added: “These are obviously very serious matters that information is being gathered on elected members of the Oireachtas.

“I still don’t know what was the motive of tracing, following, detailing members of this house.

“What they were about or why they should be gathering information is a serious issue.

Mr O’Snodaigh was not available for comment.

Both Binead and Donoghue were arrested on October 10, 2002 in Bray, following a Garda operation to prevent a planned hijacking.

At the Special Criminal Court today, Mr Justice Diarmuid O’Donovan said the men had been “insolent and provocative” in failing to answer Garda questions.

He said this, coupled with the documents discovered in Binead’s home, corroborated the evidence of Chief Superintendent Philip Kelly, who had said both men were members of the IRA.

“You were not convicted solely on the evidence of Chief Superintendent Kelly,” said the judge.

He said the court had taken account of the two men’s personal circumstances and the fact that the Provisional IRA was on ceasefire, had engaged in decommissioning and was likely to do so in the near future.

But he noted the reservations of Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O’Sullivan about the two men’s adherence to the IRA ceasefire.

Both were convicted in 1998 of threatening violence against drug dealers in Kevin Street, Dublin.

Peter Finlay, senior counsel for Binead, said his client supported the IRA ceasefire and had never been involved in paramilitary activity.

“He is a proud republican who is unlikely to change his views… but to express his republicanism within the law is something he earnestly wants to do.”

He added: “He and his fellow representatives in Sinn Féin have the ambition of making a very long and lasting contribution to this state in the years ahead.”

Mr Finlay urged the judges to ignore what he described as mischievous attempts in sections of the media to construe the evidence in the case as being sinister or likely to pose a serious risk to politicians.

Senior counsel for Donohoe, Conor Devaley, said his client was peripheral to the events described in the trial and had been depressed by the guilty verdict.

“His involvement, to use a colloquialism, is low down the ladder,” he said.

Sentencing the men, the judge said the court had totally disregarded the commentary in the media about the case.

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