Court hears explosive device found on Dublin-bound bus on eve of Queen's visit to Ireland

Donal Billings is charged with possession of an explosive substance in Longford
Donal Billings is charged with possession of an explosive substance in Longford

The Special Criminal Court trial of a Longford man accused of possessing an explosive substance and making bomb threats during the Queen of Britain's visit to Ireland five years ago has heard that an improvised explosive device that could have caused serious injury was found on a passenger bus travelling to Dublin on the eve of the visit.

Donal Billings (65) of St Bridget's Court, Drumlish, County Longford is charged before the Special Criminal Court in Dublin with the unlawful possession of an explosive substance at Longford railway station car park on May 16th, 2011.

Mr Billings is further charged with four offences under the Criminal Law Act of 1976 of knowingly making false reports tending to show that an offence had been committed.

The charges allege that he made a false report within the State on May 16th, 2011, that bombs had been placed at Busáras in Dublin and at Sinn Féin's headquarters.

He is also charged with making a false report on May 18th that two mortars were set for Dublin Castle, and with making a false report on May 20th that two bombs had been placed in the toilets at Cork airport.

Mr Billings has pleaded not guilty to each of the five charges.

Previously, the court has heard evidence that on May 16th, 2011, a phonecall was made to Longford garda station, threatening that there was a bomb on a Corduff Travel Ballina to Dublin bus, a second bomb on a bus in Busáras in Dublin and a third bomb at Sinn Féin's headquarters.

Today, members of the gardai and the Irish defence forces gave evidence about events on that night.

Garda Dennis O'Brien told prosecuting counsel Garnett Orange SC that he was on duty in the Maynooth area, when he received information in relation to a bus. 

The bus was parked at Straffan Road rail station in Maynooth, the court heard. 

Gda O'Brien said that he evacuated the passengers off the bus before he and his colleagues conducted a search.

Garda Lorna Reilly, of Leixlip garda station, was also on duty on the night in question, the court heard. 

She told Mr Orange that, after receiving information, she drove with her colleague to where the bus was parked. 

Garda Reilly searched the luggage compartment under the bus, the court heard, where she noticed a Tesco shopping bag and looked into it. 

Inside was a two litre bottle containing liquid, as well as black insulation tape and a red battery, the garda said.

She added, "I believed it was the suspect device we were searching for."

Garda Reilly then informed her colleagues what she had found and the bus was evacuated. 

"We collectively did our best to move everyone away from the scene," she said.  

A member of the Army Bomb Disposal Unit, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the court that after arriving on the scene he disabled the device, dismantling it by hand. 

The court heard that the device consisted of a two litre plastic bottle containing a flammable liquid, an improvised mechanical timer, copper piping filled with an explosive substance, a battery and a firework, all of which components were heavily taped to each other.

It was an improvised explosive device (IED), the witness said, with the ability to cause serious injury or harm. 

The trial continues.