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O'Sullivan 'stands over' support for man arrested on explosives charges before Prince Charles visit

Donal O’Coisdealbha was jailed for five and a half years yesterday after pleading guilty to IRA membership.

Image: Photocall Ireland

INDEPENDENT TD MAUREEN O’Sullivan says she stands over her letter expressing dismay at the long period spent on remand by IRA member Donal O Coisdealbha.

O Coisdealbha was jailed for five and a half years yesterday after he was arrested on explosives-related charges in the run-up to the visit of Britain’s Prince Charles.

In July, O’Sullivan wrote a letter to the judge objecting to the amount of time the 25-year-old Dubliner had spent in on remand.

Speaking to RTE’s Morning Ireland this morning, O’Sullivan said she knew the prisoner, but has also been involved in campaigning for prisoners’ issues in general.

O’Sullivan said the reason for the letter – in which she described O Coisdealbha as a “fine, intelligent, articulate and hardworking young man” – was to highlight the length of time it takes some prisoners to come before court.

O’Sullivan said:

What I wrote in the letter I can stand over. I also made the point in the letter that this is very regrettable what had happened, and the situation that he was in.
And it was in way an attempt to interfere with the judicial process.

“The letter was written in the context of an application for bail. I was highlighting why people are left so long on remand.

“No way was I condoning or endorsing or supporting what he was pleading guilty to.”

The Prince of Wales with headteachers File photo of the Prince of Wales. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Puzzling

Sentencing O Coisdealbha yesterday at the Special Criminal Court, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said that the evidence against the man was “significant” and even “overwhelming”.

Last month, O Coisdealbha (25), of Abbeyfield, Killester in Dublin 5 pleaded guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hÉireann otherwise the IRA within the State on 13 May, 2015.

Justice Kennedy referred Maureen O’Sullivan’s letter of July of this year, in which she expressed dismay as regards the length of time O Coisdealbha had spent in custody.

The judge referred to an expression in Deputy O’Sullivan’s letter as “puzzling”.

“I was actually puzzled that judges would not be concerned at the length of time they are keeping people on remand,” O’Sullivan said today.

I mean at that stage, when I wrote the letter and we were prepared to go bail, he had been in jail for over a year, without being brough to court.

“It was in no way trying to interfere in judicial process. The concern was length of time people being left on remand without being brought to court,” she added.

Prince Charles Donegal Prince Charles in Donegal last year. Source: PA

Physical force

The Dublin TD also said in the letter that she was certain if given a chance O Coisdealbha would go on to live his life in a “positive, kind way”.

Today, she said: “I suppose from conversations that I’ve had with him, that I feel that this is something in his life that he regrets and that he would like to put behind him and to be a good member of society, after he finishes his sentence.

I wrote the letter in terms of the bail hearing, and it’s really disturbing that it’s being taken as an endorsement of violence and the use of physical force.
Anyone that knows me, and the work that I do will be very clear that there is no way that I would endorse the use of physical force.

“I think the judge is taking a major leap in her surmising, she has put two and two together and come up with 10, and not four. As I said, I do not endorse the use of physical force.”

Asked whether she was aware that the accused was going to plead guilty to the charges, O’Sullivan said: “No, absolutely not.”

Read: Man arrested on explosives charges before visit of Prince Charles jailed for five and a half years

Read: Semtex, detonators and homemade explosives found before Prince Charles visit

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