Father smuggled drugs because he wanted to bring children to Disneyland, court told

Father of five had panic attack at Dublin Airport when MDMA crystal powder found


A father of five young children smuggled nearly €60,000 worth of drugs into the country because he wanted to bring his kids to Disneyland, a court has heard.

Anthony McGurk (29) had a panic attack in Dublin Airport last November after his suitcase was X-rayed by customs officials and a large bag of MDMA crystal powder was discovered wrapped inside his clothes, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Friday. He had just got off a flight from Amsterdam.

McGurk, a Belfast man of no fixed abode, initially denied owning the drugs and said they must have been planted in his bag. However, when arrested by gardaí, he confessed to buying the drugs in Amsterdam with a view to selling them once he was back in Belfast.

He pleaded guilty to one count of possessing the drug for sale or supply at Dublin Airport on November 25th last year. He has no previous convictions.

Jailing him for two-and-a-half years on Friday, Judge Martin Nolan said McGurk had engaged in a “singularly misjudged scheme” in the hopes of making some money.

He noted McGurk had no ties to the criminal world in Ireland or Northern Ireland and that he had worked for several years as a chef. He accepted McGurk was struggling with mental health difficulties at the time.

Garda Michael Byrne told Pieter Le Vert BL, prosecuting, that after being treated for a panic attack at Dublin Airport, McGurk was brought to Ballymun Garda station where he admitted to owning the drugs.

He told gardaí­ he had been struggling with mental health and job difficulties in the last couple of years and had an acrimonious relationship with his ex-partner. He said his friends clubbed together to bring him to festivals in Prague and then Amsterdam, where he bought the drugs.

“He said he was desperate to make money to bring his kids to Disneyland and for Christmas,” Mr Le Vert said. He went on to tell gardaí­: “I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life,” the court heard.

The drugs had a street value of €58,926, the court heard.

Garda Byrne told the court he and his colleagues were concerned for McGurk’s mental health during his time at the station and “kept a close eye on him”. He has been in custody since his arrest and is working in the prison kitchen.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, said his client was the father of five young children – two children aged four and six from his first relationship, and one-year-old twins and a seven-month old baby with his current partner.

Mr Bowman said his client worked as a chef before working in child support and latterly in a call centre before he stopped working due to mental health issues.

He and his current partner were given homeless accommodation in Belfast but the family has now lost this due to McGurk’s arrest, Mr Bowman told the court.

McGurk had an acrimonious relationship with his ex-partner and felt inadequate in terms of providing for his five children when he carried out the offence, the court heard.

“He has rendered himself and his family homeless,” Mr Bowman said. “He has destroyed everything he wanted to hold dear as a result of his catastrophic actions.”