Gardaí recovered a CS gas canister, a stun gun, pick-axe handles, balaclavas and a fake garda jacket after five men seen acting suspiciously by an off duty Special Branch officer were arrested in Bray, the Special Criminal Court in Dublin was told today.
The court heard that gardaí found four of the men seated on the floor of a transit van and two of them were dressed in fake garda uniforms.
Prosecuting counsel Mr George Birmingham SC said that the men were arrested after Detective Garda Michael Masterson, who lives in Bray, noticed suspicious activity around three vehicles.
It was the opening day of the trial of five Dublin men who have pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on October 11, 2002.
They are Thomas Gilson, aged 24, of Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght; Patrick Brennan, aged 40, of Lindisfarne Avenue, Clondalkin; Sean O' Donnell, aged 32, of Castle Drive, Sandymount; John Troy, aged 22, of Donard Avenue and Stephen Birney, aged 30, of Conquerhill Road, Clontarf.
Mr Birmingham said Det. Garda Masterson called for assistance after he noticed "toing and froing" around a Nissan Almera, a Ford Transit van and a Nissan Micra car parked at Corke Abbey in Bray on the night of October 10.
When two gardaí arrived they went to the Ford Transit van and the driver, who was the accused Brennan, gave a false name and refused to give his address.
When Garda Ronan Mannion and Garda Patrick Twomey spotted a black balaclava and radio on the floor of the van they immediately radioed for assistance and within minutes a large number of gardaí arrived on the scene.
When Garda Twomey opened the side door of the van he found four men seated on the floor and two of them, the accused Gilson and O'Donnell, were "dressed in attire similar to that of the gardaí - sky blue shirts and navy trousers".
The five men in the van were arrested and taken to Bray Garda Station. "In the course of their detention the gardaí became suspicious that their activity was an IRA operation and those detained were in fact IRA members," Mr Birmingham added.
Each of the accused was released from their initial detention and rearrested under the Offences Against the State Act and, although a large number of questions material to IRA membership was put to them, each failed to reply.
The Ford Transit van and Nissan Almera were searched and in the van gardaí recovered a lump hammer, two pick-axe handles, cable ties, black balaclavas, two navy blue neckties, woollen gloves, a yellow fluorescent jacket with the word "Garda" on it, four radios and a box of rubber gloves.
In the Nissan Almera, which was stolen, gardaí found a blue strobe light, a canister of CS gas, and a stun gun.
Mr Birmingham said that the garda fleet has eight Nissan Almeras similar to the one found at Corke Abbey.
In a search of Birney’s home gardaí found a Motorola radio, a mirror with Oglaigh na hEireann on it, a poster of five masked men with the words "Victory to the IRA" on it, and a poster of a number of armed masked men.
During a search of the accused’s Brennan’s home, gardaí found a number of books referring to small arms and Kalashnikov rifles and one titled "British Intelligence and Covert Action".
Mr Birmingham said that the court would hear the opinion evidence of Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Kelly , the head of the Special Branch, that each of the accused was a member of the IRA.
The trial is continuing.