Cork man charged with IRA membership

Accused man’s DNA found on hat hidden with guns and bullets, says Garda

Judges at the Special Criminal Court will deliver a verdict next month in the case of a Cork man accused of IRA membership.  Photograph: Frank Miller /The Irish Times

Judges at the Special Criminal Court will deliver a verdict next month in the case of a Cork man accused of IRA membership. Photograph: Frank Miller /The Irish Times

 

Judges at the Special Criminal Court will deliver a verdict next month in the case of a Cork man accused of IRA membership.

Sean Walsh (51) of St John’s Well, Fair Hill, Co Cork is charged with membership of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army or IRA on December 14th, 2016.

Arraigned on the charge before the non-jury Special Criminal Court on Monday, Mr Walsh pleaded not guilty.

Ronan Kennedy BL opened the prosecution case to the three-judge court.

Chief Superintendent Barry McPolin told Mr Kennedy that he believes Mr Walsh was a member of the IRA on the date in question based on confidential information given to him. He said he was not in a position to disclose this information and was claiming privilege over it.

Detective Sergeant Patrick Murphy told counsel there were a number of surveillance operations taking place at the time which focused on the accused’s activities. The witness said Mr Walsh met with his co-accused Joseph Walsh and Michael Gilmartin and a fourth man suspected of IRA membership at a house on Old Commons Road, Blackrock in Cork on November 29th, and there was a second meeting between the men on December 6th.

Det Sgt Murphy said a fourth man, who was due to carry out work on the house, was shot dead by two assailants when he was walking towards Old Commons Road on December 7th.

The witness said he went to the house on Old Commons Road later that evening and conducted a search of the attic where he inspected a bag containing two firearms, 14 rounds of ammunition, latex gloves and a black woolly hat. The hat contained a DNA profile which matched Mr Walsh’s DNA profile, he said.

Det Sgt Murphy said he received confidential information on December 14th that a group calling itself the “New IRA” were to come into possession of firearms that evening. He said Michael Gilmartin was seen at a petrol station in Newtown in Cobh carrying a bag. He said Sean Walsh and Joseph Walsh then arrived in a gold-coloured Toyota Avensis and the three men had a long conversation before making their way to a house at Chestnut Drive, Cluain Ard, Newtown in Cobh. Joseph Walsh was carrying the bag when he entered the house and the Armed Support Unit entered the premises shortly afterwards. The accused was found in the bathroom and the two other men were in a child’s bedroom.

The witness said he later inspected the bag which contained a sawn-off shot gun, a smaller bag with a Walther pistol and loose ammunition. He said Gilmartin’s DNA was found on the holster recovered from the bag. The accused was arrested and detained, he did not answer any material questions in his interviews, he said.

Det Sgt Murphy agreed with counsel that the accused was observed with Anthony Crowley on September 6th, 2014. Crowley was convicted before the Special Criminal Court in 2005 for unlawful possession of firearms.

Ronan Munro SC, for Mr Walsh, made a number of admissions today on behalf of his client including that he was present at Old Commons Road for a period of time, a bag with a sawn-off shot gun was found in the attic of a house, his DNA was found on a black woolly hat and he met a co-accused at a petrol station on December 14th.

Mr Kennedy told the court that the prosecution closed its case. Mr Munro said the defence was not going into evidence.

The court only heard a closing speech from Mr Kennedy in which he said the prosecution had proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt which included the “clear and cogent” belief evidence given by Chief Supt McPolin which the court “could attach great strength to” as it went unchallenged.

Last year, at the non-jury court, Joseph Walsh (36), of Glengarriff Road, Fair Hill, Co Cork and Michael Gilmartin (47), with an address at Chestnut Drive, Cluain Ard, Newtown, Cobh, Co Cork both pleaded guilty to possession of firearms including a magazine suitable for a 9mm parabellum pistol, a 9mm parabellum pistol and a double-barrel sawn-off shotgun at Chestnut Drive, Cluain Ard, Newtown, Cobh, Co Cork on December 14th, 2016. They also admitted the possession of 14 rounds of 9mm ammunition and eight shotgun cartridges at the same place on the same date.

Last week, Walsh was sentenced to five years and six months in prison for possession of firearms and two years for possession of ammunition. Gilmartin was jailed for five years for possession of firearms and two years for possession of ammunition. The men’s sentences are to run concurrently and were backdated to December 14, 2016.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan, will give judgement in Sean Walsh’s case on March 2nd.