Court hears submissions for men on bomb charges


The Special Criminal Court will give its ruling today on defence submissions in the trial of four men accused of having a bomb factory at a farm in Co Laois.

Defence lawyers submitted yesterday there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reason able doubt the accused men were guilty of the offences. Mr Paul O'Higgins SC, prosecuting, argued that the three accused men arrested in a shed with bomb-making equipment also knew of an underground bunker where other explosives and equipment were stored.

He also argued that the accused man, Mr Michael Cully, the farm-owner's nephew, must have been aware that a bomb factory was in a shed adjoining the farm and that the bunker contained explosives.

The court has heard that 17 Special Branch detectives, led by Det Supt Basil Walsh, raided the farm at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains near Clonaslee, Co Laois, on June 20th, 1996.

They broke into a shed and arrested three men after a violent struggle. The farm-owner, Thomas Conroy, and his nephew Mr Michael Cully, were also arrested. The next day gardai discovered "an extremely well-concealed and sophisticated underground bunker" at the farm where they found "a significant arsenal of weaponry," Mr O'Higgins said.

Conroy (76) has pleaded guilty to possession of explosive substances, including mortar components, mortars containing Semtex explosives, improvised grenades, timing switches and other material with intent to endanger life at his farm at Ballyfarrell, Clonaslee, Co Laois, on June 20th, 1996. He was remanded on bail for sentencing at the end of the trial of four other men.

Mr Michael Cully (47), Ballyfarrell, Clonaslee; Mr Brian McNally (55), Knocksinna Park, Foxrock, Co Dublin; Mr John Conaty (36), Balbutcher Park, Ballymun, Dublin; and Mr Gabriel Cleary (54), Friarstown, Tallaght, Co Dublin, have pleaded not guilty to posses sing explosive substances with intent to endanger life or to enable another person to do at Ballyfarrell, Clonaslee, Co Laois, on June 20th, 1996, and to having the explosives substances for an unlawful object. They also deny having a semi-automatic pistol, a Bren machinegun, a Luger pistol and ammunition with intent to endanger life and for an unlawful purpose on the same date.

The court yesterday heard submissions on behalf of Mr Conaty, Mr Cully and Mr McNally and on behalf of Mr Cleary last Friday. Mr Justice Barr, presiding, said the court would give its ruling on the submissions this afternoon.