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Man who made bomb threats during Queen's visit jailed for 8.5 years

The judge said Donal Billings “recklessly exposed passengers, staff and members of the emergency services to very significant risk of serious injury or death”.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Dublin Castle.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Dublin Castle.
Image: Ian JONES

Updated 7.25pm

A MAN WHO put an incendiary device on a Dublin-bound passenger bus and made bomb threats during the State visit of Queen Elizabeth five years ago has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years.

Donal Billings (66), with an address at St Bridget’s Court, Drumlish, County Longford, was found guilty last month by the three judge, non-jury Special Criminal Court of the unlawful possession of an explosive substance at Longford railway station car park on 16 May 2011.

Speaking after the sentencing today, Detective Inspector Pat Finlay, of Longford Garda Station, said the investigation shows the challenges gardaí face in relation to individuals intent on disrupting State visits.

Billings was further found guilty of four offences under the Criminal Law Act 1976 of knowingly making false reports tending to show that an offence had been committed.

He was convicted of making a false report within the State on 16 May 2011, that bombs had been placed at Busáras in Dublin and at Sinn Féin’s headquarters.

He was also convicted of making a false report on 18 May that two mortars were set for Dublin Castle, and with making a false report on 20 May that two bombs had been placed in the toilets at Cork Airport.

Trial

The trial, which lasted two weeks, was heard in both English and Irish, after Billings had invoked his right to be tried in the Irish language.

On the eve of and during the State visit of Queen Elizabeth five years ago, Billings called Longford Garda Station three times, threatening bombs on a Dublin-bound passenger bus, in Busáras and Sinn Fein’s headquarters, mortars at Dublin castle while the Queen was dining there and bombs at Cork airport, when she was due to fly out from the country.

On 16 May of that year, the night before the Queen arrived, a Corduff travel bus was stopped in Maynooth and searched by gardaí, who found a suspicious object in the luggage compartment.

The device was a combination of gunpowder and a two-litre bottle containing petrol.

After finding the bomb on the Corduff bus, gardaí also searched the Sinn Féin offices in Dublin and another bus. Nothing was found.

A further phone call was made on 18 May, threatening that two mortars were set to go off at Dublin Castle at 8pm that evening. The time and place coincided with a state banquet in the castle for Queen Elizabeth.

The caller said:

I’m a member of the Republican Brotherhood, Squad A. Two mortars are set for Dublin Castle at 8pm. This is for the Queen of blood and war of Iraq.

At today’s sentence hearing, Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, said that Billings had placed a highly dangerous explosive on a public transport vehicle containing an innocent driver and many passengers.

This was a “highly irresponsible and dangerous act”, the judge said, which “recklessly exposed passengers, staff and members of the emergency services to very significant risk of serious injury or death”.

Speaking after the sentencing outside the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin, Detective Inspector Pat Finlay said:

This investigation highlights the challenges An Garda Síochana are facing, particularly in relation to this one individual capable and intent on causing disruption to a State visit.

Read: Bomb on Dublin-bound bus during Queen’s visit would have caused “complete destruction”>

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Daniel Hickey

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