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

Donal Billings is charged with making bomb threats regarding a number of buses and the headquarters of Sinn Féin in May 2011.

Tweet SCC 3 R Woffenden Source: Richard Woffenden

A PHONE CALL to Longford Garda Station on the eve of the state visit of Queen of Britain Elizabeth II five years ago threatened there were bombs on buses and in Sinn Fein’s headquarters, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Donal Billings (65) of St Bridget’s Court, Drumlish, County Longford is charged before the Court in Dublin with the unlawful possession of an explosive substance at Longford railway station car park on 16 May 2011.

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

The charges allege that he made 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 is also charged with 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.

Today Billings pleaded not guilty to each of the five charges.

Interpreters

Before the trial opened, prosecution barrister Garnett Orange SC told the court that Billings had invoked his right to be tried in Irish and that it was therefore necessary to have interpreters for the accused man and the prosecution.

Giving evidence, Garda Peter O’Donnell told the court that on 16 May 16 2011 he was on duty at Longford garda station.

At 8:16pm the station received a phone call from a male caller, the court heard.

Garda O’Donnell said that he was told to “listen carefully” and that there was a bomb on a Corduff Travel Ballina-to-Dublin bus, a second bomb on a bus in Busáras in Dublin, and a third bomb at Sinn Féin headquarters in Dublin.

The Garda said that he did not recognise the voice.

Earlier, opening the prosecution case, Orange told the court that in mid-May 2011 Queen Elizabeth II was visiting Ireland for a number of days.

Before and during her visit, the barrister said, a number of bomb threats were made to gardaí at Longford Garda Station.

Evacuated

Orange said the court will hear that arising from these bomb threats an investigation was commenced and a Corduff Travel bus was identified and stopped in Maynooth, County Kildare, before local gardaí evacuated the passengers and conducted a search.

There will be evidence that while searching the baggage area a Garda found a suspect device, Orange said, adding that a member of the Garda Ballistics Section will give his opinion that the device contained an explosive substance.

It was effectively a bomb using a firework as a detonator and a quantity of flammable liquid attached to it, Orange said.

The places mentioned in the other threats were also searched and nothing of significance was found, he added.

The court will also hear evidence, the lawyer said, that on 18 May Queen Elizabeth was due to attend a State function at Dublin Castle and that Longford garda station received a specific threat that two mortars were set to target the castle.

There will be evidence that gardai searched the area around the castle but found nothing of significance, Orange added.

The court will also hear evidence that a final phone call to Longford Garda Station, allegedly made on 20 May of that year, threatened there were two bombs left in the toilet area of Cork airport and that Queen Elizabeth was due to fly from the airport around that time.

The airport was searched but nothing was found, Orange said.

Evidence

Evidence related to the phone number used to call Longford Garda Station will also form part of the prosecution case.

The court will be told that gardaí were able to determine the SIM card for this particular phone number had been bought in an O2 shop in Longford Shopping Centre on 16 May.

Orange said that Detective Sergeant Pádraig Jones will tell the court that he viewed the CCTV footage from the O2 shop and the shopping centre and identified the man who bought the SIM card in question and tracked him as he walked through the shopping centre on the CCTV footage.

Evidence that on 20 May Billings became a person of interest to gardaí, arising from information available to them, will be presented to the court, Orange said, adding that after the accused man’s arrest his car was searched and a package for an O2 SIM card was found.

Orange told the court that various numbers will be relevant to the case, including Longford Garda Station’s number, the phone number that made the calls and also the IMEI number – a unique number used to identify mobile devices – attached to a Motorola mobile phone.

This is relevant, Orange said, because when the accused was arrested and his car was searched gardai found a Motorola mobile phone with that IMEI number.

The trial is expected to last four weeks and continues in front of Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Martin Nolan and Judge Cormac Dunne.

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