By Daniel Hickey
A Cork man, described by a judge as an "active and trusted" member of the IRA, has been jailed for three and a half years.
Sean Walsh (51) of St John's Well, Fair Hill, Co Cork had denied membership of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh Na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA on December 14, 2016.
He was found guilty by three judges of the Special Criminal Court after a brief trial in February.
The court had heard that in November and Devember, 2016, Walsh had met with three other men at a house on Old Commons Road, Blackpool in Cork.
A fourth man, who was due to carry out work on the house, was shot dead by two assailants when he was walking towards Old Commons Road on December 7.
Later that evening gardaí conducted a search of the house's attic and found a bag which contained two firearms, 14 rounds of ammunition, latex gloves and a black woolly hat. The hat contained a DNA profile which matched Walsh's.
Gardaí then received confidential information on December 14 that a group calling itself the “New IRA” were to come into possession of firearms that evening.
Later, Walsh was found in a house in Cobh with two other men, one of whom had been seen carrying a bag into the premises.
The bag contained a sawn-off shot gun, a smaller bag with a Walther pistol and loose ammunition.
Sentencing the defendant today, Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan, said that Walsh was "actively and intimately associated with the movement of firearms for nefarious purposes" and this would indicate "a fairly active and trusted level of membership".
The court heard that Walsh had a number of previous convictions including one dating from September 2005 at Cork District Court for assault.
Detective Sergeant Patrick Murphy agreed with Ronan Munro SC, for the defendant, that the trial had taken less than two hours, which was significant in terms of garda resources.
Walsh was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
The sentence was backdated to December 14, 2016, when he was first arrested.