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Bomb on Dublin-bound bus during Queen's visit would have caused "complete destruction"

Donal Billings has also been convicted of making false telephone threats.

There was tight security during the Irish visit of the British Queen in 2011.
There was tight security during the Irish visit of the British Queen in 2011.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

THE SPECIAL CRIMINAL Court has heard evidence of an incendiary bomb on a Dublin-bound passenger bus and bomb threats made during the State visit of Queen Elizabeth five years ago.

This was during the sentence hearing today of Donal Billings (66), with an address at St Bridget’s Court, Drumlish, County Longford.

Billing was last month convicted by the three judge, non-jury court of the unlawful possession of an explosive substance at Longford railway station car park on 16 May, 2011.

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

Billings was convicted of making a false report 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.

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.

At today’s sentence hearing, Detective Inspector Pat Finlay, of Longford garda station, summarised the facts of the case.

He told prosecuting counsel Garnett Orange SC of a phonecall made to Longford garda station on 16 May 2011 during which caller said that there was a bomb on a Dublin-bound Corduff Travel passenger bus, a second bomb on a bus at Busaras and a third bomb at Sinn Fein headquarters in Dublin.

The Corduff Travel bus was stopped on Station Road, Maynooth and searched by gardai, who found a suspicious object in the luggage compartment.

Great destruction 

The device, a combination of gunpowder and a two-litre bottle containing petrol, had the potential for “great destruction”, the court heard.

Gardai also searched the Sinn Fein offices and the other bus. Nothing was found.

A further phonecall was made on 18 May, threatening that two mortars were set at Dublin castle for 8pm that evening.

The time and place coincided with a state banquet in the castle for Britain’s 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.

Searches were carried out but nothing was found.

A third phonecall, made at 3.15pm on 20 May, threatened two bombs at Cork airport.

Queen Elizabeth was due to fly out that afternoon from the airport. After a search, nothing was found.

Ireland Queen's Visit Gardaí watch from a rooftop during the visit of Queen Elizabeth II. Source: AP/Press Association Images

The garda investigation had commenced three days earlier, focussing initially on the phone number used to make the calls.

Investigations of phone records led to Billings being identified as a suspect.

A surveillance operation was put in place and on 20 May, Billings was followed from his home in Drumlish to a Lidl carpark in Longford, where he was arrested.

His car was searched and a bag was found containing the SIM card for the phone number used to make the threatening calls.

On the packaging of the SIM card there was some handwriting, including Longford garda station’s phone number, the registration number of the Corduff bus and the Irish words “Cor dubh”.

Gardai also searched Billings’ car and found a bottle of petrol and a makeshift funnel.

Billings was interviewed at Longford garda station, where he denied any involvement in the explosives or the phonecalls.

He said that he had found the SIM card on the ground of the carpark just before being arrested.

The court heard that Billings lived in Libya for four years.

Previous convictions 

He has two previous convictions, from Northern Ireland in 1973, for possession of explosives, for which he received concurrent sentences of eight and four years.

At the same time and related to the same matter he was also convicted of an offence against public order.

Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Martin Nolan and Judge Cormac Dunne, asked Garnett Orange SC for clarification regarding the explosive found on the Corduff bus.

The court heard that detonation of the bomb would have resulted in the “complete destruction of the vehicle in question, by combustion”.

Justice Hunt commended Det Insp Finlay on a “well-executed, comprehensive investigation”.

Royal State Visit to Ireland Source: Niall Carson

Máirtín O’Gibealláin SC, for Billings, asked the court to consider in mitigation his client’s age and health.

He also said that Billings was seeking to be released on his own bond until after Christmas, to put his affairs in order.

The court refused his request.

Justice Hunt said that Billings had been convicted of a serious offence, that the trial had been pending since 2011, and that he was on bail for the entire length of the trial.

Billings was remanded in custody until 15 December, when he will be sentenced.

Comments have been disabled as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Read: Man allegedly made bomb threats before visit of the Queen in 2011, trial hears >

Read: Shatter: Garda fears over station closures are “alarmist and irresponsible” >

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