Gardaí 'found IRA paraphernalia' during search, court hears

Simultaneous searches on the homes of three men accused of membership of an unlawful organisation uncovered items including a bodhran with a man in a balaclava carrying arms and badges inscribed with "sniper at work", the Special Criminal Court heard today.

Simultaneous searches on the homes of three men accused of membership of an unlawful organisation uncovered items including a bodhran with a man in a balaclava carrying arms and badges inscribed with "sniper at work", the Special Criminal Court heard today.

Three men from Cork and two from Limerick have denied membership of an illegal organisation.

The five men are Ciaran O' Dwyer (aged 50), of Castletroy View, Limerick, John Murphy (aged 25), of Ashburton House, Kilbarry, Old Mallow Road, Cork, Ultan Larkin (aged 34), of The Bungalow, Farranshone, Limerick, Gerard Varian (aged 46), of Bride Valley View, Fairhill, Cork and Aidan O'Driscoll (aged 25), of Glenheights Park, Ballyvolane, Cork.

They have all pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself as Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA on December 15, 2003.

Following search warrants issued by Detective Sergeant John Quilter, the homes of Larkin, Varian and Murphy were searched on the morning of December 15, 2003.

Detective Garda Susan Delaney discovered various items in a downstairs room at Larkin's house, which was used as an office. Among these were two books of evidence relating to IRA charges on people not before the court.

"I was aware that all of the people mentioned (in the book of evidence) pleaded guilty to firearms offences," Det Gd Delaney said.

Another person mentioned in the second book of evidence is currently serving a sentence for firearms offences, the court heard.

"I also found two bodhrans – you have a picture of a man carrying arms and in the centre there is a cross," she said. The second bodhran had "an image of a man dressed in military gear, carrying arms, in a balaclava," Det Gd Delaney added.

Larkin's main bedroom was found to contain two brown envelopes which read: "IRA Prisoners' Welfare Association Christmas Donation" and a book entitled "The Secret War of the Real IRA".

Det Sgt John Quilter said he "would have expected to find documentary evidence" in a search of Varian's home.

"As it turns out you got absolutely nothing of evidential value," Mr Fergal Kavanagh SC, defending Varian, said.

Following his arrest that morning, Varian replied: "I am not a member of the IRA," the court heard.

At 7.15am, Murphy's home and the lands outside his home were searched.

Detective Sergeant Ger O'Mahony described the accused Murphy as "uncooperative and aggressive" during the search, yet the accused "roamed around freely" during the search.

Det Sgt O'Mahony found a number of badges in Murphy's bedroom. Some read "sniper at work" and others had images of Bobby Sands.

He was asked to read what a particular badge had inscribed, and he replied: " Oglaigh na hEireann".

Books of tickets bearing the inscription "Irish Republican POWs" were found in the bedroom and a "Republican Resistance" calendar for 2004 was hanging on Murphy's wall.

All three men were arrested that morning following the searches on their homes.

Prosecuting counsel, Mr John Edwards SC, has said the five men were allegedly members of the Real IRA.

The trial continues.

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