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IRA accused “seen driving in convoy with man caught with explosives”

IRA accused “seen driving in convoy with man caught with explosives”

A Louth man accused of IRA membership was observed driving in convoy with a man who was later found with two improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Michael Connolly (44) of Grange Drive in Dundalk, County Louth, has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation, styling itself Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA on December 16th, 2014. 

Opening the prosecution case today, Fiona Murphy BL told the three-judge, non-jury court it will hear evidence from Garda Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan of his belief that Mr Connolly was a member of the IRA on the date in question. 

The barrister said that supporting evidence for the assistant commissioner’s belief will come in a number of forms. 

The court will hear evidence from members of the National Surveillance Unit (NSU) of observations of the accused man and another man, Brian Fitzpatrick.

Ms Murphy said the court will hear that the men were seen together in the Ardee area, leaving the same house at the same time in two cars, and then at a service station in Clonmel, before both cars travelled in convoy to Mullingar.

The prosecution case is that Fitzpatrick was observed with a bulge under his jacket.

Ms Murphy said the court will hear that the men were stopped by members of the Special Detective Unit on the N52 and that two IEDs were found in a paper bag in the front passenger footwell of Fitzpatrick's car.

The court will also hear evidence of telephone contact between the two men that morning, she said. 

Also forming the prosecution case will be evidence of garda interviews conducted under Section 2 of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act, 1998, with Mr Connolly, the court heard. 

The section allows a court to draw inferences from a suspected person's failure or refusal to answer questions regarding alleged IRA membership. 

Ms Murphy said that the court will be asked to draw inferences from the accused man's failure to answer material questions.

The trial resumes tomorrow morning in front of Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge John O'Hagan and Judge Flann Brennan.