Court told that gardaí found pipe bomb in Wexford investigatiom

Gardaí investigating the activities of the Continuity IRA discovered a home made pipe bomb in Co Wexford, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Gardaí investigating the activities of the Continuity IRA discovered a home made pipe bomb in Co Wexford, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Three men who admitted possession of the improvised device were given jail sentences by the court today.

The court heard that one of the men, Robert Kearns, manufactured the pipe bomb, which contained nails and pellets, from instructions he found on the internet.

Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the three judge non jury court, said that none of the men had been convicted of membership of the Continuity IRA and the court must assume they were not guilty of that offence.

The court was told that the three men, Robert Kearns, Jackie Bates and Billy Phillips had no previous convictions.

Kearns, who admitted making the pipe bomb, was given a seven years prison sentence but the court suspended four years of the sentence because Kearns expressed ``genuine remorse’’ for his actions.

Bates was given a five years prison sentence but the court suspended two years because Bates had given specific undertakings not to associate with anyone convicted of scheduled offences.

The court jailed Phillips for three and half years and said that it could find no reasons to suspend any of the term.

Robert Kearns (32), of Redshire Road, Murrintown ,Jackie Bates (56), of Jacketstown House, Jacketstown, Drinagh, Co Wexford and Billy Phillips (46), of Harbour View, Maudlintown, Wexford pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of an improvised explosive device in Co Wexford on March 1 last year.The men also pleaded guilty to ammunition charges which the court took into consideration.

Detective Superintendent Diarmuid O' Sullivan, Harcourt Square, told the court that a joint operation was mounted by the Crime and Security Branch, the Special Detective Unit and local gardai in Wicklow and Wexford into the activtiies of the Continuity IRA in the Wexford area.

As a result three vehicles were kept under observation, a black Ford Mondeo belonging to Kearns, a white van belonging to Philips and a white van belonging to Bates.

The Mondeo and Philips's van were observed driving in convoy towards Ballycogley and the Mondeo parked at a filling station while the van parked in the car park of a pub. A short time later Bates's van was seen parking alongside Philips's van and Bates joined Philips in the van.

Philips and Bates were arrested and gardai discovered a black plastic bag, boxes of ammunition and an improvised explosive device.Gardai who searched Kearns's home found a number of shotgun cartridges and Kearns was found to be using his shed to remove powder from the cartridges.

During interviews with the Gardaí Bates admitted that he had been asked to move the device to Tipperary town where he was to hand it over to someone else, but he did not know the device was a bomb.

Bates told gardaí he did not know how he got involved and added:``It was because I am a stupid, thick bastard and I didn't know the scale of it.''

Kearns admitted to gardaí that he had taken powder out of shotgun cartridges and put it in a steel flask along with nails and pellets. He said he had got the instructions on how to make the device from the internet and said he did not know what it was to be used for. Philips also admitted to gardai that he had carried the improvised device in the back of his van.

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