Prosecution says garda search was 'unlawful' in RIRA trial

Members of the Garda Special Detective Unit pulled over a car at gunpoint and found what an officer believed to be electric timing devices in the boot, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Members of the Garda Special Detective Unit pulled over a car at gunpoint and found what an officer believed to be electric timing devices in the boot, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Detective Sergeant Martin Harrington, who was in charge of a team of detectives, was giving evidence in the trial of three alleged Real IRA members, arrested after a major garda surveillance operation against the dissident terrorist organisation.

Adrian Kirwan (aged 25), a native of Ballymun in Dublin, with an address at Ardilaun Green, Ballymahon Road, Mullingar, Co Westmeath and Colum Wiggins (aged 24), of Annagry, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, each pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on December 5 last year.

Sean Connolly (aged 26), of Bernard Curtis House, Bluebell, Dublin denied membership of an illegal organisation on December 14.

Det Sgt Harrington told Mr Tom O’Connell SC, prosecuting, that he took up duty in the Mullingar area of Co Westmeath as part of a national surveillance unit looking into the activities of dissident republicans in the area. He said that he had received a briefing from a senior officer the day before about a red Peugeot estate car that was leaving the Mullingar area and heading in the Longford direction and that was believed to have explosives on board.

He said he brought the vehicle to a stop at the side of the N4 and the driver Adrian Kirwan and passenger Colum Wiggans got out of the vehicle. He said he searched the boot of the vehicle where he found a holdall containing eight white cardboard boxes tied together by elastic bands. He opened one of the boxes and found what he believed to be a timing device.

Under cross-examination by Mr Derek Kenneally SC for Mr Kirwan, Det Sgt Harrington said that both men were arrested under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act “simultaneously” with the vehicle being searched.

Detective Garda John O’Rourke and Detective Garda Gerard O’Doherty both gave evidence of having arrested two of the accused. Mr Wiggins requested a solicitor whilst Mr Kirwan had nothing to say.

Mr Kenneally applied to the court for an order stating that both the search of the vehicle and the arrest of the accused were unlawful. He also argued that any evidence given in relation to the arrest and search was inadmissible. He claimed: “Detective Sergeant Harrington stated very clearly that he didn’t say what powers he was exercising” when the search was carried out. It was up to members of the gardaí to inform a person of the legal justification for conducting a search, he said.

The case is due to continue tomorrow before the three-judge court where Mr Justice Paul Butler is presiding.

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