Two brothers caught making bomb in shed by armed gardai, court hears

Sentencing hearing took place at the Special Criminal Court
Sentencing hearing took place at the Special Criminal Court

Two Mayo brothers were caught making a bomb in their shed after armed gardai raided their family home, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Colin Mannion (37) and his brother Brian Mannion (34), of Burriscarra,Clogher, Claremorris, last month pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of explosive substances RDX, PETN, one loaded detonator, two unloaded detonators and three electrical component parts at their home on June 9, 2012.

The Mannion brothers are also charged with membership of an unlawful organisation within the State, namely Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA on the same date.

At today’s sentence hearing, Inspector Gary Walsh, of Castlebar Garda Station, summarized the facts of the case.

Insp Walsh told prosecuting counsel, Annemarie Lawlor BL, that in May 2012 an investigation concerning the unlawful possession and manufacture of explosives in relation to IRA activity was undertaken by Gardaí.

Insp Walsh said the “initial subject” of the surveillance operation was not Colin Mannion nor Brian Mannion but Gardai's attention was later drawn to them.

On June 8, 2012 Insp Walsh obtained a search warrant which was executed the following day, the court heard.

Insp Walsh said he entered the property on June 9 where he met with Denis Mannion, the father of the two accused men, who gave him access to the premises.

“There was an entry by armed Gardaí at the time and the two accused men were in the shed. This is the shed where audio-video surveillance had been taken from when the two men were present in the shed,” he

Insp Walsh said Colin Mannion and Brian Mannion were then seen running from the scene but they were apprehended by members of the Special Detective Unit (SDU) and arrested.

The two brothers were later taken to Castlebar Garda Station where they were detained. A particular key was recovered from Brian Mannion, he said.

The court heard that Gardaí preserved two separate scenes, the shed and the home of the parents of the two men.

Insp Walsh said a “Jobox”, which is a large type of metal container box, was found in the shed.

The “Jobox” contained certain items including a funnel, one complete detonator, two incomplete detonators, a Tupperware lunch box which contained a white substance which was later analysed to be RDX and PETN, Bell Wire, a brush used to sweep explosives into detonators, an infra red electronic switch, a light sensitive electronic switch, coffee filters and white spirits.

All of these items were then made available to a ballistics expert with the Garda Technical Bureau who was of the opinion that they were explosive substances. A search was also conducted at the family home
of Colin Mannion and Brian Mannion where “limited Republican paraphernalia” was found.

The court heard that Colin Mannion is a qualified tool maker with some engineering experience and Brian Mannion is a qualified plumber.

During garda interviews, Brian Mannion made no admissions but said the
“Jobox” belonged to him. Brian Mannion was also shown audio-visual footage which was recovered from the scene but he declined to comment and denied making any explosives.

The court heard that Colin Mannion made no comment during garda interviews but when he was shown the audio-visual footage he said: “It’s all there sure.” When it was put to him by Gardaí if that was him in the footage, he replied: “You have seen the video, that’s me.”

When Colin Mannion was asked would he accept that he mentioned the word “det” in the audio-visual footage when referring to “detonators’, he replied “yes”.

Insp Walsh said Brian Mannion’s fingerprints were also recovered on a disposable glove within the “Jobox”.

The court heard that Brian Mannion is recorded in the audio-visual footage as saying: “That’s the one we blew isn’t it”” and Colm Mannion can be heard replying: “Yes, we had it when testing the det.”

Both men have spent one week in custody to date in respect of this offence, the court heard.

Colin Mannion has eight previous convictions and Brian Mannion has six previous convictions. The court heard all are of a minor nature.

Insp Walsh agreed with Mr Conor Devally SC, for Brian Mannion, that both men come from an “upstanding family” and the men’s bail conditions had been “relaxed considerably” over the years because of their trustworthiness.

The witness also agreed with counsel that both Colin and Brian Mannion's involvement in this incident was for a limited period of time, no more than two to three months.

Under cross-examination, Insp Walsh agreed with Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, defending Colin Mannion, that neither of the men had come to his attention since this matter arose.

Insp Walsh also agreed with counsel that the men’s father has been ill for the last four years and both men had dedicated themselves to taking care of him over this period of time.

Colin Mannion and Brian Mannion each took the stand today where they undertook to the court that they would never involve themselves in such activities again.

“I wish to apologise to the court for wasting its time,” said Colin Mannion.

A number of testimonials were then handed into the three-judge, non-jury court by Mr Devally and Mr Hartnett.

Both barristers asked the judges to be as lenient as possible when sentencing their clients and to consider in mitigation their guilty pleas and the undertaking they had both given to the court.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Martin Nolan and Judge Flann Brennan, remanded both men in custody until tomorrow, when they will be sentenced.