IRA man loses evidence legal battle


An IRA man jailed after a suspected spy ring was unearthed has lost the final leg of legal battles to stop the courts accepting confidential evidence from senior gardai.

Kenneth Donohoe was sentenced to four years for membership of a terror group by the Special Criminal Court in 2004 after a number of men, including two men dressed as gardai, were stopped in a housing estate in Bray, Co Wicklow, two years earlier.

A Nissan Micra car found at the scene was traced back to Donohoe’s partner while other items recovered included balaclavas, Garda uniforms, Sinn Fein election leaflets, a stun gun and a canister of CS gas.

Donohoe attempted a number of appeals and tried to have the conviction overturned in the European Court of Human Rights claiming that the sworn testimony of Garda Chief Superintendent Philip Kelly infringed his right to a fair trail.

During the trial the senior officer told the non-jury Special Criminal Court he believed that Donohoe was an IRA member based on confidential intelligence from police and civilian sources.

The practice is part and parcel of trials involving suspected terrorists, and more recently organised crime gang members, where senior gardai do not disclose the identity of some sources for fear it would put someone’s life or state security at risk.

Donohoe claimed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg that the procedure restricted his defence and that the trial court’s review of the material was inadequate.

His lawyers said it was unfair for the Special Criminal Court to have access to material of which he was denied scrutiny.

In a ruling issued today, the European Court of Human Rights has found that the need to protect sources and state security was compelling and had been substantiated and that 50 other witnesses gave evidence in the trial.

The seven judges also found that the Special Criminal Court reviewed intelligence used by Chief Superintendent Kelly and found it to be adequate and reliable information.

Donohoe was convicted along with Stephen Birney, Patrick Brennan, Thomas Gilson, Sean O’Donnell, John Troy and Niall Binead - an election agent for Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh.

During their 25-day trial the Special Criminal Court heard that in follow-up investigations by gardai a list of TDs, including three former justice ministers, was found at Binead’s home.