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Two men, including grandson of former Dublin Lord Mayor, sentenced for possession of explosives

They were discovered with 4kg of TNT and a hand grenade in a densely populated area.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

TWO MEN, INCLUDING the grandson of former Dublin Lord Mayor Christy Burke, have been sentenced to seven years each for the possession of explosives in Dublin city at the Special Criminal Court.

They were charged with the possession of four kilograms of the explosive TNT and a hand grenade in a densely populated area of Dublin city, receiving sentences totalling 14 years. 

The non-jury court heard that the Army Bomb Disposal Unit was called to the scene and 40 premises had to be evacuated after the men were intercepted by gardaí.

Declan McDermott (30) was today jailed for seven years while his co-accused Mairtin Manning (24), the grandson of Mr Burke, was also sentenced to seven years in prison.

The two Dublin men pleaded guilty last month before the three-judge court after they were caught with explosives inside a shoe box, which was found in the passenger foot-well of a taxi in the city.

The former Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke was in court today seated with the men’s families and supporters for the sentence hearing.

Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that one of the ten 400 gram blocks of TNT was sufficient to make an under-car bomb and therefore the quantity in question was “very considerable”.

McDermott and Manning had acted as “couriers” and played an important role, commented the judge. Furthermore, they were trusted by the organisers of these activities, he added.

McDermott and Manning, whose addresses are not before the non-jury court, pleaded guilty last month to knowingly possessing an explosive substance, to wit ten 400 gram blocks of TNT and the explosive head of an RGD33 hand grenade at Spring Garden Street, Dublin 3, on 2 June 2017. 

A third man, John O’Brien (56) of North Great Clarence Street, Dublin 1, also admitted to knowingly rendering assistance to an unlawful organisation and possession of an explosive substance under such circumstances which give to a reasonable suspicion that it was not in its possession for a lawful object, at his home address on June 2 2017. 

O’Brien was today jailed for one year and six months. 

Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Hunt said that due to the timely intervention by gardai, no harm had resulted. 

The judge said that “further processing” of the items would have been required and that “it cannot be said that any of the men would have had a further role in the processing”.

Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said the maximum sentence for the explosives offence was 14 years in prison whereas the charge of rendering assistance to an unlawful organisation was punishable by up to eight years in jail.

The main mitigating factors were the men’s guilty pleas and the fact neither of them had previous criminal convictions, said the judge.

“Both men have positive employment and family history,” he commented, adding that there was no basis to differentiate between the two defendants.

Sentencing McDermott and Manning, the judge said the court would reduce the headline sentence of nine years and six months and impose a sentence of seven years imprisonment on each defendant, backdated to April this year when they went into custody.

Referring to O’Brien, Mr Justice Hunt said he had assisted by agreeing to store a “very significant” amount of explosive material. He had a difficult personal life as well as a number of illnesses, he said.

The headline sentence in O’Brien’s case was three years in prison.

Further mitigating factors included his early guilty plea and the fact he was now in his fifties with no previous convictions, outlined the judge.

Following this, the court imposed a sentence of one year and six months on O’Brien and backdated it to 23 April this year.

Sentence hearing

At last month’s sentence hearing, Detective Superintendent Michael Gibbons of the Special Detective Unit (SDU) summarised the facts of the case.

Gibbons told prosecuting counsel Fiona Murphy SC that surveillance was conducted after the SDU received confidential information.

Manning was observed leaving his house on Ballybough Road in Dublin 3 at 5.52pm on 2 June. He was carrying a sports bag which had a shoulder strap and it appeared to be “quite light”, the court heard.

Following this, Manning walked over Ballybough Bridge before he arrived at a house on North Great Clarence Street at 5.48pm.

O’Brien opened the door and Manning “ducked inside”, he said.

There was a brief interaction between the two men and Manning proceeded to walk 10 to 15 yards away from the house. However, O’Brien signalled to Manning to come back to the house and the two men went inside and closed the door.

When Manning emerged from the house, he was carrying the shoulder bag which looked “significantly heavier”, Det Supt Gibbons said, adding that he then walked in the direction of Dunne Street in Ballybough.

Meanwhile, McDermott had driven his taxi into a cul-de-sac on Dunne Street and parked up. The taxi meter in the car was turned off at 7.59pm, said Det. Supt Gibbons.

Manning then turned into the cul-de-sac and got into the front-passenger seat of the taxi.

The taxi then reversed onto Dunne Street and drove to Portland Row before turning onto the North Strand Road in the direction of Spring Garden Street.

The witness said there was an audio recording of the two men in the taxi and inferences can be drawn from their level of knowledge.

At this point, gardai stopped the taxi and both men were arrested for membership of an unlawful organisation as well as possession of explosives before being brought to Clontarf Garda Station.

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About the author:

Alison O'Riordan

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