Monday 18 November 2019

Cake-decoration expert testifies at trial of man accused of IRA membership

Brian Kavanagh

A CAKE-decorating expert gave evidence to gardai about bags of icing sugar found in a car driven by a Louth man accused of membership of the IRA, his Special Criminal Court trial has heard.

Neil Smith (35), of Tubberfinn, Donore, Drogheda, Co Louth, has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on August 8, 2010.

The non-jury court has heard evidence that gardai found 2kg of icing sugar after a search of a silver Volkswagen Bora car driven by the accused man on the morning of his arrest.

Counsel for the State, Tara Burns BL, read this morning from a statement by Grace O’Reilly, who said that she was a cake decorating instructor for the past three years and had been involved in cake decoration for 20 years.

Ms Reilly said she had an international diploma from Knightsbridge PME and a qualification from the Squires Kitchen School in relation to the baking arts.

She said that although icing sugar was a primary ingredient, it was typically used in very small quantities when decorating and not at all in the baking of a cake, while approximately 300-400 grams would be required to ice an average-sized cake.

Detective Garda David O’Leary, of the garda ballistics section, told Ms Burns that in addition to the icing sugar found in the Volkswagen Bora, gardai uncovered a total of 16 half-kilo bags of icing sugar from a Ford Galaxy MPV in which Mr Smith was a passenger when he was arrested.

He said that he had encountered icing sugar in home-made explosives, where it was generally mixed with ammonium nitrate at a ratio of ten to one, icing sugar being the lesser part.

Det Gda O’Leary said that the icing sugar could thus be considered an explosive substance under the Explosives Substances Act 1883.

He told Ms Burns that he also examined two shotgun cartridges found in the Ford Galaxy MPV, and said they were capable of being discharged from a sawn-off 12-gauge shotgun found in a stolen BMW car stopped by members of the Special Detective Unit during the same garda operation.

The trial has already heard from surveillance gardai who gave evidence on the movements of five men travelling in two cars - a black BMW car and a beige Ford Galaxy MPV-on the morning of August 8th.

When gardai stopped the two cars, they found a sawn-off shotgun loaded with two cartridges, a black balaclava and a Hallowe’en mask in the BMW. A subsequent search revealed that the car had been fitted with false number plates.

Mr Smith was a passenger in the Ford Galaxy, where gardai found a jacket containing a black hat with two holes cut in to it and two shotgun cartridges. It is the prosecution case that the two cars were driving in convoy.

The accused man told gardai in interview that on the morning of August 8 he and a friend had called to another man’s house in Dundalk to join in either weight training or boxing.

He denied he was a member of the IRA a total of 53 times over the course of seven interviews, and told detectives that he was not on an IRA operation on the morning of his arrest and had no knowledge of the icing sugar found in the back seat of Volkswagen Bora.

After the close of the prosecution case this afternoon, the court rejected an application by defence counsel Dominic McGinn SC to direct the dismissal of the case against Mr Smith on the basis there was insufficient evidence to proceed any further.

The trial continues tomorrow before presiding judge Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan.

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