Potential champion powerlifter guilty of IRA membership
A man described as a potential world champion powerlifter who was found guilty of IRA membership has received a year in jail at the Special Criminal Court.
Neil Smith (35), of Tubberfinn, Donore, Drogheda, Co Louth, had pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA, on August 8th, 2010. The non-jury court found that Smith “knowingly and willingly took part in a planned criminal enterprise” and this supported the evidence of Garda Chief Supt Jim Sheridan regarding his membership of the IRA.
Smith was one of five men arrested after gardaí stopped a black BMW and a beige Ford Galaxy near Dundalk, Co Louth, on August 8th. When they searched the BMW they found a sawn-off shotgun loaded with two cartridges, a balaclava and a Hallowe’en mask.
Smith, who has represented Ireland in powerlifting, was a passenger in the Ford Galaxy where gardaí found a jacket containing two shotgun cartridges and a black hat cut with holes.
At a previous hearing the court heard from the president of the Irish GPC Powerlifting Association, who said he had the height of respect for Smith, while a reference from Smith’s club said he had the potential to be a world champion.
Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the court had taken into account Smith’s previous good character and his impressive references. The court suspended the final four years of a five-year sentence to commence from the date Smith first entered custody in November.