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Seven men cleared of IRA membership

Seven men cleared of IRA membership

Seven Dublin men were cleared of IRA membership by the Special Criminal Court today after the prosecution case against them collapsed following a court ruling on evidence.

Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the non jury court, directed that the seven men should be acquitted after prosecuting counsel Ms Tara Burns SC said that the DPP would not be offering any more evidence.

The court earlier this week  ruled that the belief evidence of a Chief Superintendent that the men were IRA members was not admissible.

Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Kirwan, the head of Security and Intelligence at Garda Headquarters, previously told the court that he believed  on the basis of confidential information that all seven accused were members of the IRA.

He claimed privilege in relation to the sources of the confidential information but during cross examination he admitted that it was based on human sources and telephone intercepts.

On Tuesday Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the non jury court, said that this had not been disclosed in advance to the defence and a “basic unfairness of procedure” in the case  had resulted and the only remedy was to rule the belief evidence as inadmissible.

The seven  men acquitted by the court  are: Kevin Braney (40), of Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght , Des Christie (50), of  Liam Mellows Road, Finglas,  Hubert Duffy (47), of George’s Place in Dublin 1, William Jackson (55), of Dooncourt, Poppintree, Declan Phelan (33), of Lanndale Lawns, Tallaght, John Brock (42), of Glenview Park, Tallaght, and Darren Murphy (44), of Rory O’Connor House in Dublin 1.

All seven  had pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on March 29th, 2013.

During a twenty  one day trial the prosecution had claimed that the seven men were part of an IRA operation to extort money from a used car dealer in Clondalkin and that they had travelled to the car dealership for that purpose.

The court heard that members of the Emergency Response Unit and the Special Detective Unit moved in to arrest the men and that a number of items were recovered from the scene.

In follow up searches of two vans, an office and kitchen, gardai found cable ties, gloves, balaclavas, a baseball bat, a lump hammer, a pepper spray and a Glock pistol.

The prosecution case relied on garda observations of the men on the morning of their arrest, items found at the scene, their response to questioning during garda interviews and the opinion evidence of Chief Superintendent Kirwan.