Accused told gardaí that IRA membership was 'one-way ticket to death or jail'
on 17/10/2012 18:14:53
Neil Smith (aged 35), of Tubberfinn, Donore, Drogheda, Co Louth, has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA on August 8, 2010.
His Special Criminal Court trial yesterday heard evidence from surveillance gardaí who followed the movements of five men travelling in two cars - a black BMW car and a gold Ford Galaxy MPV-on the morning of August 8.
When members of the Special Detective Unit stopped the two cars, they found a sawn off shotgun loaded with two cartridges, a black balaclava and a Halloween mask in the BMW. A subsequent search revealed that the car had been fitted with false number plates.
Mr Smith was a passenger in the Ford Galaxy, where gardaí found a jacket containing a balaclava and two shotgun cartridges. A number of bags of icing sugar were also found in a silver Volkswagen Bora driven by the accused man earlier in the day.
Opening the prosecution case, Ms Una Ni Raifeartaigh SC said that a ballistics expert would tell the court that icing sugar is sometimes used in the preparation of home-made explosives.
Detective Garda Gordon Wolfe this afternoon agreed with Ms Tara Burns BL, for the State, that over the course of seven interviews with gardaí at Balbriggan Garda Station, the accused man said that on the morning of his arrest he and a friend had called to another man's house in Dundalk to join in either weight training or boxing.
The accused man told gardaí that he and his friend travelled in to Dundalk in the Ford Galaxy car driven by the other man, but said that he did not know why the other man wanted to drive in to the town and did not ask.
The accused man repeatedly denied he was a member of the IRA, that he was on an IRA operation on the morning of his arrest or that the Ford Galaxy and BMW were travelling in convoy.
However, he agreed that the scrap yard he worked at was owned by a man associated with the IRA and that he knew the driver of the Ford Galaxy and a passenger in the BMW were communicating by mobile phone.
Put to him that he was not telling gardaí everything, the accused man replied: "I don't see it", before adding "being stupid is getting involved with the IRA, getting involved is a one-way ticket to death or jail".
He told gardaí that he had been driving the silver Volkswagen Bora for three days prior to his arrest but said that he did not own the car or know anything about the bags of sugar found by detectives in the back seat.
The accused man denied any knowledge or possession of the balaclava and shotgun cartridges found in the Ford Galaxy or the shotgun and cartridges found in the BMW car.
Asked for a reasonable explanation as to why he was "in the middle of all of this", Mr Smith told gardaí that it was "bad luck" that he was "in the wrong place at the wrong time" before again adding that he was not in the IRA.
The trial continues tomorrow, when it is anticipated the prosecution will close its case.