Judgment reserved in IRA membership trial

The Special Criminal Court has reserved judgment today in the trial of five Dublin men accused of IRA membership after their arrest in Bray in October 2002.

The Special Criminal Court has reserved judgment today in the trial of five Dublin men accused of IRA membership after their arrest in Bray in October 2002.

The court heard closing submissions from prosecution and defence counsels.

The five Dublin men have pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself 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; 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 Conkerhill Road, Clontarf.

Mr George Birmingham SC, prosecuting, told the court: "What the five of them were up to, all of them were up to. It's a matter of clear joint enterprise."

He added that the accused were involved "in conduct which is suggestive of and supportive of engagement in IRA activity".

Defence counsel for all five accused gave closing speeches after Mr Birmingham SC.

"The only proofs that have been produced in court are circumstantial," Mr Hugo Hynes SC, for Birney, said.

Referring to the arrests of the accused, Hynes added: "The men engaged in these activities were up to no good in that they were attempting to pass off one of them as a member of the gardaí. But that is a matter of crime, not of subversive activity."

Ms Deirdre Murphy SC, for Brennan, urged the court "not to draw inferences" from the interviews with the accused.

Ms Aileen Donnelly SC, for Gilson, said that the "actual evidence" in the case does not lead "to the conclusion or the belief, or the suspicion, that they were members of the IRA".

The tattoos of the accused were addressed in the closing of Mr Paul Burns SC, for O'Donnell. "Has it come to this, that people are to be convicted of membership on the basis of tattoos on their person?"

Mr Niall Durnin SC, for Troy, added: "The evidence does not go far enough to support conviction".

The court also ruled today that Garda interviews with the five accused were not admissible in evidence because they were detained in a garda station for 20 hours with little or no sleep.

Mr Justice Diarmuid O' Donovan, presiding, said that the court was concerned that the five men had been detained for 12 hours under the Criminal Justice Act, had been interviewed, and not had ``very much in the way of sleep''.

The men had been then rearrested under the Offences Against the State Act on suspicion of membership of an illegal organisation and detained for a further period, during which they had no sleep before being interviewed.

``In essence, therefore, each of the accused was detained in a garda station, which must have been a hostile environment for them, notwithstanding that there is no suggestion that any one of them was ever treated with hostility, for approximately 20 hours with little or no sleep.

``Moreover, while perhaps they did not appear to the members of the Garda Síochána who interviewed them to be excessively tired, they must have been tired and the interviewing members of the gardaí must have suspected that they were tired given that they (the gardaí) must have know that they (the accused) had had little sleep over a long period of time during which they had been subjected to other interviews,'' the judge said.

``The court is not satisfied to admit in evidence what transpired during each of the interviews to which each of the accused was subjected on the evening of October 11, 2002,'' the judge added.

The court has heard that each of the accused refused to answer questions relating to membership of an illegal organisation during interviews with gardaí.

Under the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act of 1998 a court is entitled to draw inferences from a failure to answer material questions.

Following the court's ruling, Mr George Birmingham SC made a closing submission for the prosecution after defence counsel for each of the accused said they were not going into defence evidence.

The court ruled last week that the accuseds had been lawfully arrested and detained by gardaí after they were seen acting suspiciously in Bray.

The court has heard that gardaí recovered a large quantity of Sinn Féin posters, including election posters for Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh, from a car, in which they also found a stun gun and CS gas canister after the men's arrest.

It was the 24th day of the trial of the five men. The trial has heard that gardaí recovered a CS gas canister, a stun gun, pick axe handles, balaclavas and a fake garda jacket after five men were seen acting suspiciously around three vehicles by an off-duty Special Branch officer.

The court has heard that gardaí found four of the men seated on the floor of a transit van, two of them were dressed in fake Garda uniforms.

The trial is continuing.

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