A man who admitted his part in a surveillance operation on the Dublin headquarters of a number of specialist garda units has been acquitted of IRA membership by the Special Criminal Court.
There was a cry of “Yes” and stuttered applause from the public gallery this morning as the non-jury court delivered its judgement on the tenth day of the trial of Corey Mulhall (43).
The accused man had formally admitted taking photos of the garda complex on Harcourt Square in September 2012 after booking a room in the nearby Harcourt Hotel under the false name “Jason Egan”.
In the written admissions, Mr Mulhall said that a named man had offered him money to take photos of a very tall guard, who drove a black Hyundai Santa Fe car, on behalf of another unnamed man, who was in dispute with gardai.
The court heard that Mr Mulhall lied to gardai in interview when he told them he had gone to the Harcourt Hotel to meet a “bird” whose name he did not know. He said he used a false name because he did not want his wife to find out.
Throughout the interviews, Mr Mulhall consistently denied membership of the IRA.
The court heard evidence from garda Chief Superintendant Kevin Donohoe, who told the court that on the basis of confidential information it was his belief that Corey Mulhall is a member of the IRA and was such a member within the State on September 26, 2012.
Returning judgement, presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court was satisfied Chief Supt Donohoe was a person of integrity and much experience and accepted he holds the belief expressed.
However, he said the court would not convict on the basis of such a belief alone in the absence of some form of independent corroboration.
Mr Justice Butler the court was satisfied that Mr Mulhall gave false answers and failed to answer a number of material questions put to him in garda interview, and found it was entitled to draw inferences from this.
However, he said the court noted that the accused man is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, and when two views on any part of the case are possible on the evidence, the court should adopt that which is favourable to the accused, unless the State has established the other beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mr Justice Butler said the court found the accused man’s admission that he was offered money by a named man to take photographs of a “very tall guard” could be a reasonable possible alternative explanation for the failure and refusal to answer material questions.
He said that in all the circumstances of the case, the court must have some reasonable doubt as to whether the accused was a member of an unlawful organisation and would therefore acquit Mr Mulhall.
Corey Mulhall was arrested in September 2012 after detectives observed suspicious activity at the Harcourt Hotel close to the garda complex on Harcourt Square. The Harcourt Square building is home to the Special Detective Unit, whose tasks include monitoring the activities of dissident republicans.
The accused man, of Daletree Court, Ballycullen, Dublin 24, had pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on September 26, 2012.
Counsel for the defence, Ms Deirdre Murphy SC, had argued that in the totality of evidence, everything pointed away from membership of the IRA, as there was a “credible alternative explanation” for Mulhall’s presence at the Harcourt Hotel.
At the outset of the trial it emerged that a document offering an alternative explanation for Mr Mulhall’s arrest was not disclosed to the defence.
The document sets out what the author perceives to be a number of “victories” achieved by him in an “ongoing battle” with gardai of the Stolen Motor Vehicles Unit (SMVU), also based at Harcourt Square.
In the course of the 10-page document the author makes certain allegations about gardai in the SMVU and states that by September 2012 he believed the best manner to protect himself was to make the story public in the media, for which he would need photographs of the gardai involved.
The author states that two people, who did not have a criminal record, then accompanied him to the Harcourt Hotel where photos were taken.