Trial of man accused of IRA membership to hear DNA evidence

Trial of man accused of IRA membership to hear DNA evidence

The trial of a man accused of IRA membership will hear DNA evidence linking the man to the scene of a bomb blast outside Newry courthouse in February 2010, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Darren Weldon (45), of Drinadaly, Trim, has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA on October 14th, 2014.

Today Sean Guerin SC opened the prosecution's case. 

He told the court that the allegation against Mr Weldon originates in a bomb attack on Newry courthouse in February, 2010. 

Mr Guerin said the court will hear evidence that on the evening of February 22nd that year a number of people saw a suspicious vehicle parked outside Newry courthouse and that phonecalls were made to a hotel and Daisy Hill hospital, warning of a bomb due to explode in 30 minutes.

The court will also hear evidence that the bomb exploded at around 10:55pm that night and in the aftermath, amid the debris, PSNI officers found the vehicle's registration plate. 

Evidence that DNA was found on the top edge of the plate will be presented to the court, Mr Guerin said. 

Counsel said that the registration plate was from the Republic of Ireland and that the van, a Mazda, had been stolen from premises in Dundrum in January 2010.

The registration plate found after the explosion was from an entirely different vehicle, the court was told.

Mr Guerin said the court will then hear evidence that in October, 2014, Detective Superintendent Tom Maguire, of the Special Detective Unit, was made aware of information which suspected a connection between the accused man and the bomb attack in Newry.

The court will hear that Mr Weldon was arrested on October 14th and while in custody gardai took DNA swabs, which were later compared to the DNA profile from the swab taken from the registration plate found at the scene of the bomb.

The court will also hear evidence of interviews conducted with the accused, who denied being an IRA member.

Mr Guerin added that evidence will be heard that the accused man had been arrested before, in September, 2012, for suspected IRA membership, after attending the funeral of Alan Ryan.

The court heard that Ryan had been convicted at the Special Criminal Court in 2001 of IRA membership.

The court will finally hear evidence, Mr Guerin said, from Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Kirwan of a belief he holds in relation to the accused man.

The trial continues in front of Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Martin Nolan and Judge Cormac Dunne.