A hard working and devoted family man has been jailed after he agreed to transport over €220,000 worth of drugs in order to pay a debt to a criminal.
Mark Donnelly (45) of Carrickaslane, Castleblaney, Co Monaghan told gardai he had come under threat from the man he owed money to. He said this man “had an army behind”.
Donnelly, also of Aghanore Road., Armagh, Co Armagh, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of 37 kg of cannabis resin on the M1 in north Dublin on February 13, 2014. The drugs have a estimated street value of €221,400.
Judge Martin Nolan said the married father of two was a hard working man, a good family man and a good community man.
He jailed Donnelly, who has no other convictions, for two and a half years.
The judge said that he could consider this as a one-off offence and that Donnelly had made a grave error of judgement when he had come under pressure from a “rather unsavoury individual”.
He noted that Donnelly had been living under a degree of pressure since his arrest with the drugs.
Patrick Marrinan SC, defending, said that his client's joinery business had gone bust and he found himself under financial pressure.
He said he met an old acquaintance who offered him a loan of €5,000. He said this man later turned on him and demanded the money back.
Mr Marrinan said the demand became sinister and there were threats and intimidation. He said these threats have since been carried through and Donnelly was now living in fear for his safety and welfare.
Mr Marrinan handed in a large number of character references, including references from former employers and from people connected with his local hurling team, Cuchulainns, which Donnelly is involved with.
Detective Garda Eoin Roche said that Donnelly was arrested after gardai from the National Drugs Unit received confidential information about a van travelling south from Dundalk, Co Louth, with drugs.
He said the drugs were in packages in the back of the van. He agreed that Donnelly's only role was to bring the drugs from an individual in Dundalk to another individual in a car dealership near Cork city.
He agreed also that Donnelly had worked all his life before setting up his own joinery business in 2009. This fell into debt when debtors hadn't paid him.
Mr Marrinan said his client was completely devoted to his family and children and was a good husband to his wife who works as a part time care assistant.