Two men have been sentenced to a total of 20 years for helping a criminal gang to murder Vinnie Ryan, a brother of slain Real IRA leader Alan Ryan.
Jeffrey Morrow received the longer sentence of 11 years after Mr Justice Michael White detailed his history of crimes including conspiracy to rob a cash-in-transit van carrying €1million.
Paul O’Beirne was sentenced to nine years with Mr Justice White saying he finds it difficult to understand why a man with no history of criminal activity got involved in such a serious crime.
Outside court, Kelly Smyth, Mr Ryan’s partner and the mother of his child, said: “I’m happy that it’s all over. For myself and my daughter’s sake I just want to get on with the rest of my life.”
She described Mr Ryan as a “great father and a great man”, adding: “We were looking forward to the rest of our lives together but sadly that was cut short.”
Mr Ryan (25), who was known as a dissident republican, was shot dead outside Ms Smyth’s home on McKee Road in Finglas on February 29th, 2016 when a gunman pulled up alongside his car and fired at least 13 rounds. One bullet went through Mr Ryan’s head, causing his death. Ms Smyth had taken their then five-week old daughter from the car only moments before the shooting.
O’Beirne (36) of Colepark Drive, Ballyfermot and Morrow (37) of Burnell Court, Coolock went on trial on June 24 last when they pleaded not guilty to Mr Ryan’s murder.
Following lengthy legal argument the murder charge was dropped and both men pleaded guilty to facilitating a serious offence contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006. The court heard they provided and destroyed a stolen Volkswagen Golf that the gunmen who shot Mr Ryan used in the “drive-by” shooting.
Mr Justice White said both men knowingly associated themselves with a criminal organisation and the provision and destruction of the car were “vital” to the plan to murder Mr Ryan.
“Every human life is valuable and these criminal organisations, by the way they behave, have no respect for human life,” he said.
He said he was convinced by the evidence that the car provided to Morrow and O’Beirne and then found burnt out on a laneway near Naas, Co Kildare was the one used in the murder.
He added that although he is not dealing with a murder sentence, “there was a proximity to this callous crime which the court considers a very serious aggravating factor.”
He noted that O’Beirne had 25 previous convictions, 24 of which were for minor road traffic matters. He said a section 4 assault conviction was for “going too far” when he was trying to apprehend someone who was breaking into cars on his street.
“Considering his record I’m surprised he has got himself involved in this. He doesn’t seem to be involved in criminal activity before this offence.”
Morrow, Mr Justice White said, is “completely different”. He said Morrow, who has 120 previous convictions, had shown a, “reckless disregard for law and order from when he was a young man.”
In particular he noted Morrow’s convictions for possession of a firearm, threatening to kill or cause serious injury and conspiracy to rob a cash-in-transit van of €1million. He added: “At the time of this offence Mr Morrow was inextricably linked up to a criminal organisation and had made choices in life in relation to that and that is a very serious aggravating factor.”
Det Supt Colm Murphy told reporters outside court that the conviction and sentencing of the two men “shows An Garda Síochána’s determination in combating organised crime gangs.
“Vincent Ryan’s murder was brutal, callous and shocking, carried out in broad daylight in a residential area as young children made their way home from school.
“I would like to thank the many people who gave evidence during the trial. I would also like to acknowledge the words of Justice Michael White in commending the members of An Garda Síochána who investigated this murder to the highest professionalism.”