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Garda raid broke up meeting of IRA members, court is told

Seven dissident IRA members were discussing messages smuggled out of prison when Special Branch detectives raided a house in Dublin, a court has been told.

When gardai entered the house, the seven accused men were in a front sitting room and two small packages were found on a coffee table. It was alleged that the packages contained communications from prisoners in Portlaoise Prison, in the form of tightly-folded thin paper wrapped in cling film.

"What was occurring was a meeting being held by these accused as members of the IRA to discuss these prison communications," said Tara Burns, opening the prosecution case.

Ms Burns said the charges arose from a search of a house in Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght, where one of the accused, Peter Burns, lived with his father.


Ms Burns said the Special Criminal Court would also hear Chief Supt Peter Kirwan testify that he believed the seven were members of the IRA.

After their arrest, the men were interviewed and gave vary-ing responses, which the prosecution would claim allowed the court to draw inferences that they had failed to answer material questions.

The court has embarked on a "voir dire", or trial within a trial, to decide on the admissibility of evidence relating to the search warrant and the arrest of the accused at the house.

The seven accused are Brian Nick McBennett (54), of Ard Collum Avenue, Artane; Peter Burns (39), of Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght; Kevin Braney (39), also of Glenshane Crescent; Michael Barr (33), of Carlton Court, Poppintree, Ballymun; John Brock (41), of Glenview Park, Tallaght; Declan Phelan (31), of Lanndale Lawns, Tallaght; and Desmond Christie (49), of Liam Mellows Road, Finglas.

Each man has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA, on July 3, 2013.

The trial before Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Alison Lindsay and Judge Cormac Dunne is scheduled to last six weeks.