Drug changed my personality, says soldier caught with bomb
AN Irish soldier has blamed a malaria drug for leading to a change in his personality before he was caught with explosives at a flat.
Mark Cassidy appeared before Letterkenny Circuit Court yesterday charged with two counts of possessing explosive substances.
The court heard that on February 16, 2014, gardai had received confidential information to say there were explosive substances at a flat above a petrol station in Burnfoot, Co Donegal.
Surveillance was carried out and on February 17 gardai entered the premises.
Inside the premises, gardai found a black bag containing a viable pipe bomb.
The area was sealed off and army bomb disposal experts were rushed to the scene. A further search discovered a large quantity of assorted shotgun cartridges in the attic of a flat occupied by the 29-year-old.
Cassidy, with an address at Grianan Vale, Ballyderowen, Burnfoot, was interviewed on six occasions by gardai and admitting having the pipe bomb and the shotgun cartridges in his possession.
Detective Sgt Mick Carroll said they still had no information as to what the explosive devices were going to be used for.
A bag containing overalls and balaclavas was also found in the flat but there was no indication as to what they were being used for.
Barrister for Cassidy, Peter Nolan, said his client had ben an exemplary soldier who had served overseas in Chad and was based at Finner Camp in Donegal when this incident happened.
Mr Nolan suggested there was a connection between his client taking the drug Lariam for malaria while serving overseas, which caused a change in personality. He referred to the US army banning the drug as a result of concerns over its effect on soldiers.
He added there was simply no reason why a man with no record of being involved in subversive activity would suddenly do so.
Mr Nolan also said that the suicide of Cassidy's brother in Derry in 2009 and the death of his mother in the same year had had a profound affect on him.
It was also given in evidence in court that Cassidy, who is originally from the Foyle Road in Derry, was arrested by the PSNI but never charged with any offence.
Det Carroll also said that Cassidy had no previous convictions for any offence on either side of the border.
Judge Matthew Deery said it was a very serious incident, especially when the explosives were found in an apartment above a busy supermarket.
"The reasons as to why they were stored are not explained but it seems to me that while he has no previous convictions, it is a serious matter," said the judge.
He sentenced Cassidy to three years on each charge and ordered them to run concurrently. He backdated the sentence to January 17 when Cassidy was first placed in custody at Castlerea Prison.