Thursday 22 March 2018

Louth man released from custody after two year sentence for IRA membership backdated

Brian Kavanagh

A Co Louth man who received a two year sentence for IRA membership has been released from jail after his sentence was backdated to when he was first entered custody in 2010.

Barry O'Brien (40), a father of five from Stonetown near Dundalk, had pleaded guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on August 8, 2010.

This morning at the Special Criminal Court, O’Brien was sentenced to five years with three years suspended.

He was released on bond after presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler ordered the sentence to commence on the date of the charge.

Earlier this month, the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned O’Brien’s conviction and near four year sentence for membership of the IRA on April 6, 2004, ordering a re-trial.

The court heard that O’Brien was arrested after surveillance gardai followed the movements of five men travelling in two cars - a black BMW car and a silver Ford Galaxy MPV driven by O’Brien-on the morning of August 8, 2010.

Detective Inspector William Hanrahan told Ms Una Ni Raifeartaigh SC, prosecuting, that the two cars were travelling together in convoy and appeared to show interest in a Maxol garage situated on the Castletown Road on the approach to Dundalk.

He said that gardai who stopped the black BMW found a loaded 12 gauge sawn-off shotgun, a black balaclava and a Hallowe’en mask after a search, while detectives subsequently discovered that the car had been stolen from an address in Northern Ireland.

Det Insp Hanrahan said that gardai who stopped and searched the Ford Galaxy driven by Mr O’Brien found a jacket containing two shotgun cartridges and a balaclava.

He agreed with Ms Ni Raifeartaigh that the five men were involved in some kind of “non-innocent enterprise”, although it was unclear exactly what this was.

Det Insp Hanrahan agreed that Des Ryan (54), a passenger in the Ford Galaxy, was given a five year suspended sentence in May having pleaded guilty to the possession of a firearm and ammunition.

yan had been observed leaving the BMW and getting in to the Ford Galaxy.

He agreed with Ms Ni Raifeartaigh it was the belief evidence of Chief Superintendent Jim Sheridan that O' Brien was a member of the IRA on August 8, 2010.

Det Insp Hanrahan told the court that O’Brien has a previous conviction for assault and 12 previous convictions relating to road traffic offences.

He agreed with counsel for the defence, Ms Deirdre Murphy SC, that O’Brien was incarcerated at Portlaoise Prison where he was segregated from other republican prisoners.

Taking to the stand, O’Brien told the court that he “would not be associating” with any members of an unlawful organisation in the future as he wanted to “get on” with his life and get back to his wife and children, whose lives he said had been in turmoil for the past two years.

O’Brien said that upon his release he planned to finish a college course he had been taking on catering and hospitality management.

He told Ms Ni Raifeartaigh that he would also give an undertaking not to associate with anyone involved in or connected with any kind of criminality.

O’Brien agreed that he had been in segregation for nine months in Portlaoise Prison as he had been asked to leave and effectively “ejected” from the republican wing.

Delivering sentence, Mr Justice Butler said it was accepted by the prosecution that O’Brien had disassociated himself from the IRA.

He said that because of O’Brien’s lack of relevant previous convictions and his undertaking under oath to disassociate himself from the unlawful organisation, the court considered the appropriate sentence to be one of five years with three years suspended.

Mr Justice Butler said the court would suspend that portion of the sentence for three years on condition that O’Brien be of good behaviour and keep the peace, and that he not associate with any member of an unlawful organisation or anyone convicted of a scheduled offence.

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