A convicted murderer and former Provisional IRA member with a violent past will not be allowed a licence for a shotgun, a court has decided.
Angelo Fusco (61), of Kilflynn, Co Kerry, had accepted his prior convictions in this jurisdiction and in another jurisdictions "for very serious offences", Judge David Waters said a at Tralee District Court where Fusco had appealed a refusal by a Tralee Garda Superintendent to grant him a shotgun licence.
“The applicant had also admitted being a member of an illegal organisation and associating with known members of that illegal organisation,” Judge Waters said.
On that basis Judge Waters, was dismissing the appeal against the decision of Tralee Supt Jim O’Connor to refuse Fusco a license for a Baikal shotgun.
During the 90 minute hearing, Supt O’Connor outlined how he had received the application from Fusco on March 10th, 2016. As was normal in an application under the Firearms Act, he had made enquiries about the applicant.
Fusco was convicted in his absence in Belfast Crown Court on June 12th, 1981 and received six 99-year sentences in relation to possession of firearms with intent, being a member of a proscribed organisation, murder and attempted murder out of an incident on May 2nd, 1980 at Antrim Road Belfast where he was surrounded by the security forces.
SAS Captain Herbert Richard Westmacott, on duty outside the house, was shot dead, Supt O'Connor replied to state solicitor Aidan Judge.
Fusco and others had been arrested but on June 10th, 1981, days before the court case, he escaped, using a firearm.
Mr Judge put it to the Supt that this man’s “terrorist background” and his association with known subversives had led to the refusal.
Supt O’ Connor said he had concerns for public safety: “I am of the view past behaviour is a great indicator of future action. This man’s past has been violent, murderous, and he has no respect for human life and cannot be allowed carry a firearm.”
Pádraig O’Connell, solicitor for Fusco, referred to peace agreements including the Good Friday agreement and put it to the Superintendent that in refusing the licence to Mr Fusco he was “in a historical time warp”.
The Supt said he did not agree.
”Murder is murder,” he said.
Documents including a grace and mercy pardon by her Majesty the Queen and Fusco’s release under licence were handed to Supt O’Connor.
However, Supt O’Connor said Fusco’s convictions were never quashed and had not been struck off the record.
“The convictions remain,” Supt O’Connor said. “I have my concerns in relation to this character, both in the past, the present and the future.”
The Supt said he also had concerns about medical seizures which Mr Fusco had previously suffered.
Angelo Fusco, in evidence said he was now a married grandfather of eight, and had come to Tralee Co Kerry in 1981 on the run and had worked as a painter and decorator.
“I have complied with all conditions to the letter,” he said of the pardon under the terms of the Belfast Agreement. He had never come to the attention of the Garda in Kerry since.
He wanted the licence for a single barrel shotgun because he kept poultry, and lived in the country.
“Nothing sinister,” he told his solicitor.
Cross examined by Aidan Judge, he said he was part of the Provisional IRA “unit” who had shot Capt Westmacott.
He also admitted trying to escape, unsucessfully, from Portlaoise Prison in 1985 along with others including Martin Ferris, the now Kerry TD who was in court to provide him with a character reference.
Fellow prisoner Thomas McMahon had placed the explosives on the gates in Portlaoise, he said in response to questions from the State solicitor.
At this the state solicitor, the State solicitor remarked that McMahon obviously wasn't as good at blowing gates as boats, saying he was referring to the murder of Lord Mountbatten. There were calls of "disgrace" from the body of the court at this remark by the state solicitor.
Judge Waters intervened twice to say he would clear the court room. He also told warned the State solicitor he must narrow his questioning to the issue.
Fusco insisted he wanted a gun licence in order to join the local gun club to shoot pheasants, foxes and crows, and “to pursue sport.”
He agreed he had a conviction for murder.
Character witness for Fusco, Martin Ferris TD, said he had first met Angelo Fusco in 1981 when he had escaped from the Crumlin Road prison and had come to Kerry with his wife and kids as did a number of other escapees.
Fusco was a qualified prisoner under the Good Friday agreement, he had been part of an organisation that was involved in conflict and like hundreds of other members of the IRA and other organisations had been released under the Good Friday Agreement.
“The Good Friday agreement is a role model for the world,” Mr Ferris said.
The historical aspects with regard to the objections to Angelo Fusco holding a shotgun licence had been resolved under that agreement, he believed.
“Angelo Fusco is a very loyal, very honourable, honest person,” Mr Ferris said.
Cross-examined by Mr Judge, the TD agreed he had twice been convicted of IRA membership.
Judge Waters warned Mr Judge that Mr Ferris was a character witness and his character was not at issue.
After a short recess to consider, the judge dismissed the appeal.