Two Limerick men have been jailed for two and a half years each for membership of the IRA last year.
The Special Criminal Court was today shown three rocket launchers seized during the investigation into the offence by 32-year-old Thomas McMahon, a former chef, and his co-accused Noel Noonan (35).
McMahon, of Ros Fearna, Murroe, and Noonan, with an address at St. Patrick’s Hostel, Clare Street, had each pleaded guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation within the State styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on February 7th, 2013.
Detective Superintendent Thomas Maguire testified that gardai followed Noonan’s Peugeot from Limerick to Clonmel on the evening of February 4th, 2013. Three men, including McMahon, were seen getting out of the car at Tivoli Road and walking down onto a railway line.
The Garda National Surveillance Unit later found three launch tubes and two mortar drills for rockets on the rail track.
The Peugeot was seen in the same area three nights later, this time accompanied by McMahon’s Mercedes and McMahon himself was seen behind Noonan’s car.
Three men were later seen walking along a bridge over the railway line, one carrying a heavy bag on his back.
The cars were stopped as they left, and three launch tubes and two mortar rockets were seized.
The three tubes were displayed in the body of the court, each 40 inches in length and almost 10 pounds in weight.
The superintendent said that they were designed for the training of military personnel and were Irish Army issue. He testified that the propellant was absent in each, consistent with them having been used, but he said that they were still lethal.
“This operation was designed by members of the IRA to procure weaponry for the IRA,” he said.
When arrested, both men denied membership of the IRA, denied stopping on the bridge and denied knowledge of the equipment. However, they later pleaded guilty to the single charge of IRA membership.
The court heard that Noonan had previous convictions, including for assault. McMahon also had previous convictions, including for false imprisonment and two threats to kill.
Each man entered the witness box yesterday, took the oath and gave undertakings to dissociate from the IRA.
Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding in the three-judge court, noted that it was unusual to see guilty pleas to IRA membership.
He said the court believed that the appropriate sentence was four years imprisonment.
However the final year and a half of each sentence was adjourned when the men each entered a €500 bond to not commit such offences in the future and not to associate with any member of an unlawful organization or anyone convicted of a scheduled offence in the Special Criminal Court.