Gardaí had no suspicion men had 'IRA' links, court told

The trial of five Dublin men accused of membership of an illegal organisation was told the arresting gardaí had "no suspicion at all" the men allegedly had any links to the IRA, the Special Criminal Court heard today.

The trial of five Dublin men accused of membership of an illegal organisation was told the arresting gardaí had "no suspicion at all" the men allegedly had any links to the IRA, the Special Criminal Court heard today.

The five men have pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself as 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.

Garda Tracy Rooney was one of five gardaí at the scene at Corke Abbey in Bray, where a "suspicious" van was spotted.

Garda Patrick Twomey found a balaclava and a radio on the floor of the passenger seat and its driver, one of the accused, Brennan, was arrested. Gardaí then opened the van door and arrested the other four accused.

Prosecuting counsel, Mr George Birmingham SC, asked Garda Rooney, "At Corke Abbey, did you realise you were dealing with an IRA group?"

"No, I had no suspicion at all," Garda Rooney replied.

Garda Shaw Megannety has told the court that the accused were up to "something sinister", yet he did not believe at the time of their arrest that this "suggested" any link to illegal membership activity.

Garda Megannety had said that his suspicions regarding illegal membership activity arose only when he saw tattoos of the Irish flag on the upper arm of an accused during the course of an interview with one of the accused, Stephen Birney.

Defence counsel Hugo Heinz SC, for Birney, said: "When you finished the interview you had said you did have suspicions that there was involvement in an illegal organisation?"

"I did," the garda replied.

The five men were arrested under suspicion of theft, when gardaí found a lump hammer, two pick axe handles, cable ties, black balaclavas, two navy blue neckties, a yellow fluorescent jacket with the word "Garda" on it, four radios and a box of rubber gloves at the scene.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Diarmuid O'Donovan.

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