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Special Branch caught alleged dissidents with communications from Portlaoise

Special Branch  found two packages containing tightly folded paper wrapped in clingfilm that were communications from prisoners in Portlaoise
Special Branch found two packages containing tightly folded paper wrapped in clingfilm that were communications from prisoners in Portlaoise

Seven Dublin men were holding a dissident IRA meeting when Special Branch detectives raided a house in Tallaght almost two years ago, the Special Criminal Court heard.

Gardai found two packages containing tightly folded paper wrapped in clingfilm that were communications from prisoners in Portlaoise Prison on a coffee table in a front room where the seven men were gathered.

Opening the prosecution case Ms Tara Burns SC said that the seven accused men were holding a meeting in the house as members of the IRA to discuss those communications.

The seven are: Brian Nick Mc Bennett (54) of Ard Collum Ave., Artane,Peter Burns (39) of Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght, Kevin Braney (39) also of Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght, Michael Barr (33) of Carlton Court, Poppintree, Ballymun, John Brock (41) of Glenview Park, Tallaght, Declan Phelan (31) of Lanndale Lawns, Tallaght and Desmond Christie (49) of Liam Mellows Road, Finglas. 

Each of the men have pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on July 3, 2013.

Ms Burns said that the charges arose from a search of a house in Glenshane Crescent, Taillight where the accused Peter Burns lived with his father.

When gardai entered the house the seven accused men were in a front sitting room and two small packages were found on a coffee table. Ms Burns said that the packages contained very thin paper, tightly folded and wrapped in clingfilm which were communications from prisoners in Portlaoise Prison.

“What was occurring was a  meeting being held by these accused as members of the IRA to discuss these prison communications,” she said.

Ms Burns said that the court would also hear the opinion of Chief Superintendent Peter Kirwan that he believed the seven accused were members of the IRA on July 3rd, 2013.

After their arrest the seven men were interviewed and gave varying responses which the prosecution would claim allowed the court to draw inferences that they had failed to answer material questions.

The court has embarked on a “voir dire” or trial within a trial to decide on the admissibility of evidence relating to the search warrant and the arrest of the accused at the house in Tallaght.

The trial before Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Alison Lindsay and Judge Cormac Dunne is scheduled to last six weeks.

by Diarmaid Mac Dermott