A "functioning alcoholic and drug user" who boasted in a pub that he had a semiautomatic pistol has been given a 15-years prison sentence by Judge Frank O’Donnell who described him as "a danger to society"
Paul McGrath (aged 48) made his gun boast in the Gallop’s Pub in Leopardstown Valley and gardaí found he had the 9 mm weapon along with 10 rounds of ammunition and €30 worth of cocaine and cannabis.
A silencer then was found in his home as well as another small quantity of cannabis, valued €336.
Six months later he was found in possession of a double barrel sawn off shot gun and 12 cartridges after Gda Peter Egan spotted him running from the scene of a burning car and caught him.
McGrath, with addresses in Killarney Street and at Castle Court, Killgobbin Wood, Stepaside, claimed he had found the weapons but then told gardai that he set fire to the car after being asked to do so by someone he didn’t know because he owed a favour through losing the first cache of weapons.
McGrath pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of the pistol and ammunition at Gallop’s Pub, Leopardstown, possession of the silencer and cannabis at his home and possession of cocaine and cannabis at Dundrum Garda Station, on June 6, 2005
He also pleaded guilty to possession of the shotgun and arson of a car at Ballyowen Lane, Lucan and possession of the shot gun cartridges at Lucan Garda Station, on December 12, 2005.
Judge O’Donnell said: "These are very bizzare offences and his explanations to gardai are Walter Mitty-like. He claimed he found the first stash of guns but later said he was forced by others to carry out the arson attack because he had lost the silencer and the semiautomatic pistol."
Judge O’Donnell said both McGrath’s behaviour and his 19 previous convictions, which included an assault causing actual bodily harm, indicated he was "a danger to society".
He sentenced McGrath to consecutive prison terms of 15 years, and suspended the last five years on condition that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for six years on his release.
Detective Garda Michael Gibbons told Ms Cathleen Noctor BL, prosecuting, that McGrath had been asked to leave a vehicle because he suggested "doing a line of cocaine" and was later overheard in the pub boasting he had a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol. The silencer was found hidden in a pillow in his Stepaside home
Gda Peter Egan said he caught McGrath running from the scene of a burning car at Ballyowen Lane, in Lucan and discovered he was also carrying a loaded double barrel sawn off shot gun.
McGrath admitted burning the car and said he was wearing a motorbike helmet because he was supposed to escape on a motorbike but it left without him and he couldn’t catch it. He said he didn’t realise there was a loaded gun in the bag he was carrying.
Mr Michael O’Higgins SC (with Mr Bernard Condon BL), defending, described McGrath as a "functioning alcoholic and drug user" who had been smoking cannabis, and taking cocaine and alcohol during this period and he submitted that there had been "a degree of coercion by other people" in some of the offences.
Counsel said that during McGrath’s time in prison he had helped an injured prison officer during a riot. He had a good work record over a considerable period of time since he returned to Ireland in 1993 having worked in a hostel in a role with "high vocational value" and in the construction industry.
Mr O’Higgins said McGrath presented as "a lonely and isolated figure" and this was compounded by the fact that he had asked that none of his friends or family be present in court. He had learned a valuable lesson and asked for clemency.