Life sentence for dissident murder
A Northern Ireland man was jailed for life by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin today for the dissident republican murder of a man shot dead in a church car park in Co Donegal almost four years ago.
Martin Kelly had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Andrew Burns who was shot twice in the back by a gunman linked to the dissident republican group, Oglaigh na hEireann.
Kelly (37), a bus driver, of Barrack Street, Strabane, Co Tyrone was convicted last month of the murder of Andrew Burns (27), an unemployed man, at Donnyloop, Castlefin, Co Donegal on February 12th, 2008.
He was also found guilty of the unlawful possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life on the same date.
Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the non-jury court with Judge Alison Lindsay and Judge Cormac Dunne, said that the court had no discretion with regard to the murder conviction and it sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The judge said the court sentenced Kelly to eight years for the firearms offence, and it ordered both sentences to run concurrently and to date from the time Kelly was taken into custody on March 16th, 2010.
The judge paid tribute to the Garda investigation and said they had “let no stone unturned” in their efforts.
Kelly’s trial began in early October last year but after two days of evidence the court started a “trial within a trial”, lasting for 12 days, to decide on the admissibility of statements made by Kelly while in Garda custody in Letterkenny and a statement made by Kelly to two senior gardaí at a hotel in Northern Ireland.
Supt Vincent O’Brien told the court that Kelly has no previous convictions in the Republic and eleven minor convictions in Northern Ireland.
He said that both Kelly and Mr Burns were associated with the dissident group, Óglaigh na hÉireann. Supt O’Brien said Kelly had named his accomplices during an interview with gardaí.
He agreed with defence counsel Giollaoisa Ó Lideadha that because of this there was “a very real, exceptional, dangerous threat to his life” and that he would probably have to be exiled from his family and home when eventually released from prison.
Supt O’Brien said that the Garda investigation into the murder still continuing with the assistance of the PSNI. He said that to date five people had been arrested in connection with the murder.