Wednesday 13 December 2017

Robert Nolan jailed for IRA membership

Brian Kavanagh

A DUBLIN father-of-two who was convicted of membership of the IRA has been sentenced to three-and-a-half-years at the Special Criminal Court.

Robert Nolan (45) of Elmdale Park, Cherry Orchard, Ballyfermot had pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation within the State, namely the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on January 11th, 2012.

After a four-day trial the non-jury court found that Nolan’s failure to answer material questions in interview with gardai was “wilful, deliberate and calculated” and this corroborated the belief evidence of Chief Superintendent Kevin Donohoe that Nolan was an IRA member.

The court heard Nolan was a passenger in a green Ford Mondeo car that was stopped by a marked armed response garda patrol unit in the Ballinacurra Weston area of Limerick city on the afternoon of January 11th last.

Gardai who searched the vehicle uncovered a Webley revolver in a brown paper bag which had been concealed under the front passenger seat where Nolan was sitting.

The driver of the car was convicted IRA member Dermot Gannon (45), a father-of-four from Wellview Crescent, Mulhuddart, Co Dublin. Gannon was jailed for seven years for the possession of the firearm found in the Mondeo after an uncontested Special Criminal Court trial last July.

Detective Garda John O’Connell this morning (Tuesday) agreed with counsel for Nolan, Mr Micheal O’Higgins SC, that the defendant conducted himself properly at the scene of arrest and told the court that Nolan’s behaviour was “perfect at all times” in custody.

Mr O’Higgins told the court that Nolan was a married father-of-two and for a long number of years had been a “fully contributing member of society”.

He said that his client was a self-employed roofer but that work had dried up at the advent of the recession in 2006, adding that Nolan was also addicted to alcohol and drank too heavily.

Mr O’Higgins said this client had two previous convictions on record, but that one had been set aside on appeal, leaving him with a remaining conviction for handling a stolen keg of beer.

In the absence of any significant previous convictions and in light of Nolan’s previously “unblemished record”, Mr O’Higgins asked that the court to be as lenient as possible.

Passing sentence, presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court regarded the offence as being at the lower end of the scale as there was no evidence of any illegality other than membership simpliciter.

Mr Justice Butler said the court had considered suspending part of the sentence but had long made it clear that the suspension of any part or all of a sentence occurred only “on a promise and not on a hope”.

He said that, having taken in to account the mitigating factors in the case, the court considered the appropriate sentence to be one of three-and-a-half-years to date from October 1st last.

Mr Justice Butler, sitting with Judge Margaret Heneghan and Judge William Hamill, said the court would grant a forfeiture and destruction order for the firearm and formally refused Mr O’Higgins leave to appeal.

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