Accused admits to being member of FG, but not IRA

A man accused of membership of an unlawful organisation said he "was not a member of the IRA of any description or type" and that "the only organisation" he was a member of was Fine Gael, the Special Criminal Court heard today.

A man accused of membership of an unlawful organisation said he "was not a member of the IRA of any description or type" and that "the only organisation" he was a member of was Fine Gael, 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.

The court heard details, read out by prosecuting counsel Mr John Edwards SC, of garda interviews conducted with Varian on December 15 and 16, following his arrest.

Detective Sergeant John Cahill, interviewing the accused, asked about his involvement in laying down wreaths with another accused, Murphy, at a Republican lot at St Finbar's Cemetery in Cork. The wreaths were inscribed with a card, which read: "Let the fight go on, Real IRA, First Battalion, First Unit".

"No, I didn't place any wreath in any Republican plot, I had nothing to do with it," Varian replied.

He added that he "couldn't even spell", when it was put to Varian that he wrote the card.

During the six interviews over the two days, Varian repeatedly denied being a member of an unlawful organisation styling itself as the IRA.

"As I've said already, I am not a member of the IRA of any description or type, the only organisation I am a member of is Fine Gael," he said.

He also denied knowing the accused, Larkin and O'Dwyer, who were seen by gardaí going into the back of a van he was driving, at the car park of a hotel in July 2003.

Varian initially denied knowing Murphy, who was also with him on that occasion, but later said he knew him from work.

A bag recovered on a road in Killcully in 2001 with contents, including 169 rounds of ammunition and documents relating to the IRA, was shown to the accused during the interview.

"Is it possible that your fingerprints could be on these?" Det Sgt Cahill asked.

"No, impossible," Varian replied.

Asked if he discussed "matters to do with the IRA" when he was alone in the vehicle with O'Dwyer and Larkin, Varian replied: "No. I am not a member of the IRA. I'm not a member of any illegal organisation. I swear on the lives of my children. I wouldn't put them in danger."

The next time Sgt Cahill put it to Varian that he was a member of an unlawful organisation, Varian again denied being a member of the IRA and said: "And I don't want to hear that question again. Never again in my life."

The trial continues tomorrow.

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