Court rejects claim that investigation was 'sham' in IRA trial

The Special Criminal Court has ruled against lawyers for a father of three accused of IRA membership, that his arrest by Gardaí was invalid and that the investigation was a "sham".

The Special Criminal Court has ruled against lawyers for a father of three accused of IRA membership, that his arrest by Gardaí was invalid and that the investigation was a "sham".

Lawyers for Barry O'Brien had argued that his arrest at his home in Mountainview Court, Dundalk, Co Louth, in April 2004 was invalid because his house was searched on the belief that firearms would be discovered there. None were found.

The 38 year old has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself on the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA, on April 6, 2004.

Fifteen books of raffle tickets for “POWs”, walkie-talkies, a metal detector, nearly €6,000, a number of mobile phones and bodhráns bearing republican images were however discovered when Gardaí searched the house.

Senior counsel for the defence, Ms Deirdre Murphy SC, argued that these were neutral items and were not grounds for the Gardaí to form a “reasonable suspicion” that O'Brien was an IRA member, and arrest him.

“The totality of evidence shows that this was in fact a sham investigation concocted when members of the SDU were very disappointed with the search of Mr O'Brien's house,” she said.

But Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the three-judge court, found that O'Brien's arrest and the subsequent investigation was valid.

He said there had been evidence that the Superintendent who issued the search warrant for O'Brien's house had in fact “believed evidence in relation to scheduled offences would be found” and not just firearms.

Mr Justice Butler also referred to evidence given in the case by Chief Superintendent Patrick McGee, who said it was his “strong belief” O'Brien was an IRA member.

The Chief Superintendent said he knew O'Brien for many years on a personal basis and was very familiar with his activities “and of his involvement with the IRA.”

The court has also heard that O'Brien's fingerprints were found on mobile phones seized by Gardaí from a northern-registered car, in which firearms and ammunition were also found, in September 2003.

Two men arrested during the search were subsequently convicted of unlawful possession of firearms, while a third was convicted of IRA membership at the Special Criminal Court.

The trial resumes on Tuesday.

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