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'horrific' Used car salesman vows he will not let conviction for IRA membership be 'swept under carpet'

A car Mr O'Leary had sold was later used by dissident republicans to target a PSNI officer

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Robert OLeary (43). PIC: Collins Courts

Robert OLeary (43). PIC: Collins Courts

Robert OLeary (43). PIC: Collins Courts

An ‘Arthur Daley’ type used-car salesman whose appeal against a conviction for IRA membership went unopposed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has vowed not to allow his case “to be swept under the carpet” after learning today he won’t face a retrial.

Robert O’Leary has also called for an end to the Special Criminal Court after describing the ordeal of being “jailed for a crime I did not commit” by the non-jury court as “horrific”.

Mr O’Leary (43), of Clancy Road, Finglas, Dublin, was originally arrested after a car he sold was later used by dissident republicans in a bombing operation against a PSNI officer.

He was jailed for three years following a trial in October 2020 in which he was found guilty by the three-judge court of being a member of a group styling itself as the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, at a location within the State in August 2019.

The conviction, however, was quashed after it emerged Mr O’Leary’s lawyers weren’t told by the prosecution that the chief trial witness against their client was a convicted drug dealer.

The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, said at a hearing last month, on January 11, that an investigation was merited after he was told the DPP was not opposing Mr O’Leary’s appeal against the conviction.

Adjourning the case to give the DPP time to decide whether Mr O’Leary should face a retrial, Mr Justice Birmingham said the circumstances of the case were “unusual”.

“A situation where a witness has a previous conviction and this conviction is not disclosed is an unsatisfactory one,” he noted.

Today, Paul Greene SC, for the DPP, told the court that the State was not seeking any fresh proceedings against Mr O’Leary and “he was free to go”.

Speaking outside court, Mr O’Leary said there had been “no evidence” against him and “the case should never have come to court”.

“I was locked up for a year and a half for a crime I did not commit,” he said.

“The impact this has had on my family, my business, has been horrific. I sold a car legally. When did that become a crime?”

Mr O’Leary added that it was “not the end of the matter” as far as he was concerned.

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“This won’t be swept under the carpet,” he said. “If ever there was a case which highlighted that there shouldn’t be a Special Criminal Court, it is mine.”

At his trial in October 2020, the DPP claimed a Skoda Octavia car used by the New IRA when they placed a bomb under a PSNI officer's Jeep at Shandon Park Golf Club, Belfast, on June 2019 had been supplied by Mr O’Leary.

The court was told Mr O’Leary had informed gardai he had bought the Skoda Octavia for €750 before selling it “two or three days” later.

Comparing himself to the Arthur Daley character from the 1980s comedy series ‘Minder’, he told officers that his main business was panel beating but he would also “flip” used cars for as little as €200.

Mr O’Leary later launched an appeal on the grounds that a newly discovered fact had meant his conviction was unsafe.

In a submission to the Court of Appeal, lawyers for Mr O’Leary said the State’s chief witness against their client, Nik Kasapi (40), was a convicted drug dealer.

Kasapi, according to the defence, had pleaded guilty to two counts of being in possession of a quantity of drugs for sale or supply at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in May 2016 and was sentenced to two years and six months’ imprisonment.

Kasapi, aka Armin Kasapovic, was also named in the legal papers as the owner of a company called Millennium Motors and that he was wanted in Montenegro for drug offences involving the sale or supply of €2m worth of cannabis.

It was further claimed that this information was withheld from the defence despite repeated requests for disclosure.

“If these facts had been known in advance of trial, they would have impacted on the witness’s credibility,” the defence submission stated.

Claiming that a “very different approach to the cross examination would have been taken” if Kasapi’s criminal record had been disclosed to them before the trial, Mr O’Leary’s lawyers said this opportunity had been denied them “due to the failure of the prosecution to comply with its disclosure obligations”.

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