Court reserves judgement in IRA membership trial

The Special Criminal Court has reserved judgment in the case of a Co Louth father of three accused of IRA membership.

The Special Criminal Court has reserved judgment in the case of a Co Louth father of three accused of IRA membership.

During the three-day trial of Barry O'Brien from Mountainview Court, Dundalk, Chief Superintendent Patrick McGee said in evidence it was his “strong belief” the 38-year-old was an IRA member.

Superintendent McGee also said he had known O'Brien for many years on a personal basis, and was very familiar with his activities “and of his involvement with the IRA.”

Garda forensic witnesses told the court they were “satisfied” it was O'Brien's fingerprints which were found on mobile phones seized from a car in Dublin in 2003, in which firearms were discovered.

The driver was subsequently convicted of IRA membership, while two other men arrested during the operation pleaded guilty to possession of firearms.

The court was also told that books of raffle tickets for “POWs”, walkie-talkies and €6,000 in cash was discovered when Gardaí searched O'Brien's house in April 2004.

He denied these were for IRA fund-raising purposes.

O'Brien is pleading 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.

The court heard that during his Garda interviews, he denied being an IRA member on 177 occasions.

Closing the trial, senior prosecuting counsel Mr Clarke SC, told the court it should convict O'Brien because the State had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty.

He said Superintendent McGee's belief evidence had been “particularly strong.” Mr Clarke also said O'Brien had provided no explanation for his prints being on two phones seized from the car in 2003,

He reminded the court that O'Brien told Gardaí he knew the three men in the car.

O'Brien's defence counsel, Ms Deirdre Murphy SC, however said there was no evidence before the court on which it could convict O'Brien.

She said Gardaí had gone into his home in April 2004 looking for guns, but had left with items that were “neutral” as to IRA membership.

Ms Murphy also said that the memos of Garda interviews before the court were not “bona fida memos designed to further an investigation, they were rather designed to blacken Mr O'Brien in the eyes of the court.”

She said the Gardaí's questions had been prejudicial and had not cast any light on the case.

Judgment in the case has been reserved for a later date.

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