A MONAGHAN farmer, who claimed he didn’t see a loaded shotgun at his feet in a car, has been jailed for firearm and ammunition possession.
Father-of-two Eamon Lennon of Iniskeen, Co Monaghan was today sentenced to five years in prison with two suspended for possession of a sawn-off shotgun and ammunition over two years ago.
He pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of the sawn-off, 12-gauge, side-by-side shotgun at Ecco Road, Dundalk, Co Louth on the August 8th 2010.
He also pleaded guilty at the Special Criminal Court to the unlawful possession of two 12-gauge, Eley shotgun cartridges on the same occasion.
Detective Inspector William Hannon told the court yesterday that Gardaí had Lennon and four co-accused under surveillance on the day in question. The five men were travelling in a number of cars through various locations around Dundalk.
He said that Gardaí eventually stopped three of the men in a Ford Galaxy, while Lennon and another man were stopped in a black BMW, which was travelling in convoy with the Galaxy.
“There was a loaded sawn-off shotgun in the footwell beside his feet,” said DI Hannon of Lennon, who was the passenger in the BMW. “There was a balaclava beside it.”
He said that both men in the BMW were wearing gloves even though it was August. He said a Halloween mask was also found in the car, while shotgun cartridges and balaclavas were recovered from the other car.
The detective inspector said that Lennon first put a denial on record after being arrested and taken to Dundalk Garda Station. He then exercised his right to silence, he said, but at one stage denied seeing the shotgun in the car.
He said that Lennon got bail after being charged but failed to turn up for a subsequent court date after leaving the jurisdiction. He was arrested on a bench warrant and brought before the court where he pleaded guilty to the two charges.
The State decided not to proceed with a remaining count against Lennon of membership of an unlawful organisation.
DI Hannon said he had only one previous conviction here for a public order offence. He had 45 previous convictions in Northern Ireland, mostly for road-traffic and public order offences, but they included one for possession of a firearm and another for possession of ammunition there.
DI Hannon agreed with the defence that Lennon had crossed the border to be with his heavily pregnant girlfriend when he left the jurisdiction. The court heard that she had since given birth to twin girls, who were now 22 months old.
Úna Ni Raifeartaigh SC, for the State, told presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler, sitting with Judge Margaret Heneghan and Judge William Hamill, that the maximum sentence for his offences were 14 years with a presumptive minimum of five years.
Lennon then entered the witness box, dressed in a white shirt, blue and black tie, and black pinstriped trousers.
He said he would give an undertaking to not associate with any person charged with or convicted of an offence before that court and not become involved in any serious criminal activity of that kind.
When asked what his plan for the future was, he replied: “Just get back on track, back to normal.”
He said he planned to live in the North.
The defence handed the court letters of references from his brother, neighbour, a local priest and his partner, who said she loved and needed him.
Mr Justice Butler said the court had dealt with a large number of similar offences and took a serious view of them, as did the Oireachtas.
“He gave no explanation for his actions,” he said.
The non-jury court then imposed a five-year sentence on each of the charges to run concurrently. It suspended two of the five years on his entering a bond on the basis of the undertaking he had given, along with a number of other conditions.
The court then back-dated the sentence by 41 weeks to take into account time already spent in custody.