Thursday 18 October 2018

Man who claimed he went to Monaghan for 'drinking session' and didn't know about fertiliser in van given date to appeal conviction

Martin McHale (54) with an address at Blackwater Grove, Togher, Cork. Photo: Collins Courts.
Martin McHale (54) with an address at Blackwater Grove, Togher, Cork. Photo: Collins Courts.

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A Cork man who told gardaí he had gone to Monaghan for “a drinking session” and did not know about the half-tonne of fertilizer in the back of the van he was driving has been given a date to appeal his conviction.

Martin McHale (54), with an address at Blackwater Grove, Togher, in Cork, had denied membership of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on November 2nd, 2013.

The non-jury Special Criminal Court found him guilty of the offence last year and he was sentenced to four-and-a-half years imprisonment on February 22, 2017.

McHale has lodged an appeal against his conviction which was fixed for hearing on July 19 next today.

Barrister Amy Heffron told Mr Justice George Birmingham that the hearing is expected to take half-a-day.

McHale was not in court for the procedural matter.

Sentencing him last year, Ms Justice Kennedy said McHale had travelled with another man to Monaghan with half-a-metric tonne of fertiliser in a van not owned by either of them.

McHale told gardaí during interviews that he had borrowed a friend’s van to go to Monaghan for “a drinking session” and was unaware there were bags of fertiliser in the rear.

Ms Justice Kennedy, presiding alongside Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Gerard Haughton, said the court was satisfied that McHale had full knowledge of the contents of the van and that he was a “trusted transporter” of the fertilizer.

She said the court had considered belief evidence, his interviews with gardai, forensic evidence and activities at the relevant time.

She said McHale gave answers to gardaí the Special Criminal Court found "false and misleading" and he refused to name the owner of the van.

McHale had no relevant previous convictions, had settled family circumstances and was entitled to credit for the manner in which he approached the case, the judge said.

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