TWO men described as “puppets on a string” for a €1.2 million drugs operation have each been given a 10-year suspended sentence.
Edward Rooney (54) of Ballinacorribeg, Roundwood, Co. Wicklow and Des Ryan (64) of Belfield Springs, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford both pleaded guilty to possessing heroin and cocaine for sale or supply on April 5, 2012.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the men had been under severe financial pressure when they agreed to transport and collect a bag containing drugs from the UK to Ireland.
Judge Desmond Hogan imposed suspended terms of 10 years on both men on condition that they keep the peace and are of good behaviour for seven years.
The judge expressed shock at how “two genuine, honest, well-regarded people” with no previous convictions could have “so stupidly and willingly” become involved what he described as a “most serious offence”.
Detective Garda Declan Moloney told Martina Baxter BL, prosecuting, that the men were arrested after gardaí set up a surveillance operation in the car park of the White Horse pub in Finglas.
Mr Rooney, driving a Ford Mondeo, was seen parking alongside a truck driven by Mr Ryan and walking over to the driver's window. Ryan was then seen handing over a black hold-all bag which Rooney put in the car boot and drove off. Both men were arrested very shortly afterwards and brought to Finglas Garda Station.
Gardaí recovered the hold-all bag containing nine plastic bags containing packages of heroin worth €1.26 million, and one bag of cocaine worth €15,939.
Ryan told gardaí he had been having a rest in his truck in a lay-by in the UK when he was approached by an unidentified man with an Irish accent who asked him to carry a bag to Ireland.
He said they agreed that he would be paid between €2,000 and €3,000 to transport the bag, which he initially thought contained cigarettes.
Rooney told gardaí he got a number of phone calls from an unidentified man that he had met at the dole office instructing him to collect the bag.
He said he was fully aware that he would be collecting drugs and that he was getting paid €500 to do the job.
Gda Moloney said Rooney had been very cooperative with gardaí apart from refusing to identify the person who had approached him outside the dole office.
When asked by if he was in fear of this person, Rooney replied “Oh yeah” and said he understood that the man had a history of violence.
He agreed with Anthony Sammon SC, defending Rooney, that both men were like “puppets on a string” and “drug mules”.
Mr Sammon said his client, a father-of-four, had significant debts to the bank and had lost his own home due to planning issues.
He said Rooney worked as a labourer and a mechanic and had a solid relationship with his children and his ex-partner.
Mr Sean Gillane SC, defending Ryan, said his client was also under huge financial pressure as his partner had a debt of €86,000 to the Department of Social Welfare because she had been claiming the lone-parent allowance while living with him.
Judge Desmond Hogan did not accept the fact that the men did not know the value of the drugs as a mitigating factor, saying “if you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound.”