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Monaghan man using mother-in-law’s land for IRA activity, court hears

Monaghan man using mother-in-law’s land for IRA activity, court hears

A Monaghan man accused of IRA membership was using his mother-in-law's land for dissident activity, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Jim Smyth (44), with an address at Aghalissabeagh, Scotstown, County Monaghan has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organization, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA, on November 25th, 2015. 

Today's evidence was heard as part of a voir dire - or 'trial within a trial' - and will help the court's three judges to decide on a legal issue. 

Paul Greene SC, for Mr Smyth, had indicated that the defence is challenging the legality of the accused man's arrest. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Maguire, of the Special Detective Unit, told prosecuting counsel Shane Costello SC that he convened a meeting in Monaghan garda station on the day of the alleged offence.

He said he informed the other officers that Mr Smyth was using his land and land belonging to his mother-in-law at Knockatallon, County Monaghan, for IRA activities.

The court heard that Mr Smyth had been arrested before, on January 29th, also on suspicion of IRA membership, and that he had been released without charge. 

The chief supt said the previous arrest was "totally separate" from the new investigation, which had "nothing whatsoever" to do with the arrest in January.

The court heard that after the meeting gardai from the Special Detective and Crime and Security Units went to the lands at Knockatallon to carry out a search. 

Detective Sergeant Gerard O'Doherty told the court that at the meeting, he had been informed that the lands at Knockatallon were being used for IRA activity and Mr Smyth was "instrumental" in that activity. 

The detective said that at 8:30pm, at Knockatallon, he made his way toward derelict houses at the top of a laneway.

He said that it was "wet underfoot", "very boggy" and "pitch black".

The court heard that the detective was informed at 9pm a man was making his way up the laneway.

The detective said that he observed the man approach and confronted him at the entrance to derelict houses, before drawing his official firearm and illuminating the man with the light on his gun. 

Det Sgt O'Dohertty said that the man gave his name as Jim Smyth.

The detective asked Mr Smyth where he was coming from, the court heard, and the accused man said, "Mass".

He was asked what he was doing there and said he was there to see his horses.

The detective said, "It didn't make logical sense to me, a man walking up that laneway. It was very dark and overgrown with trees. He had a flashlight in his pocket, he wasn't using it."

The court heard that the detective then arrested Mr Smyth on suspicion of IRA membership.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding, sitting with Judge Sinéad Ní Chúlacháin and Judge James Faughnan, will rule tomorrow afternoon/this afternoon (Wed) on the legality of the arrest.