Judge 'irritable' over defence confusion

A judge at the Special Criminal Court today criticised the defence counsel of five men accused of membership of an illegal organisation, saying that he would be "less irritable" if he knew what the defence was.

A judge at the Special Criminal Court today criticised the defence counsel of five men accused of membership of an illegal organisation, saying that he would be "less irritable" if he knew what the defence was.

The five men have pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself as the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA, on October 11, 2002.

They are Thomas Gilson (aged 24) of Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin; Patrick Brennan (aged 40) of Lindisfarne Avenue, Clondalkin, Dublin; Sean O'Donnell (aged 32),of Castle Drive, Sandymount, Dublin; John Troy (aged 22) of Donard Avenue, Dublin, and Stephen Birney (aged 30) of Conquerhill Road, Clontarf, Dublin.

Prosecuting counsel, Mr George Birmingham SC, interrupted a cross-examination by Mr Hugo Heinz, for Birney, to address the court.

He said: "Apparently, what is being suggested is that the gardaí knew they were dealing with IRA suspects and for some inexplicable reason they made an arrest for theft instead. Now why would they do that?"

Mr Justice Diarmuid O'Donovan replied: "I've been trying to get an answer to that for the past three days."

Defence counsel Mr Paul Burns SC told the court that it was agreed with prosecution that all the evidence would be put out and only then would submissions be made.

Mr Justice O'Donovan reiterated his confusion about the defence. "This case has been going on for five of six days and the court does still not know what the defence is. There seem to be people just getting up and asking question after question after question," he said.

Mr Burns SC told the court that "everything is an issue" in the trial. He later told the court that one of the "issues" was that of dual-arrest.

Mr Justice replied: "If someone had indicated that to me three days ago, I might have been less irritable."

"You might find me a little less irritable now," he added.

The court has heard that the five accused were apprehended at Corke Abbey Avenue in Bray, Co Wicklow, when a "suspicious" van was stopped by gardaí.

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 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 O'Donovan.

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