IRA used Christmas cards to smuggle communiqué out of Portlaoise prison, court hears

Portlaoise Prison

A man accused of IRA membership used Christmas cards as a cover to smuggle a "secret and sensitive" communiqué out of Portlaoise prison, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

The allegation was made today (Friday, May 5) during the closing speeches at the trial of Brian Kenna (54) of Crumlin Park, Crumlin, Dublin.

Mr Kenna denies membership of an unlawful organisation within the State, namely Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA on November 21st, 2015.

Ronan Kennedy BL, prosecuting, told the three-judge, non-jury court that there was "compelling evidence" Mr Kenna was a member of the IRA, trusted to smuggle a "secret and sensitive" communication out of Portlaoise prison.

Previously, the court has heard evidence that the communication related to an IRA operation that had been intercepted by gardai.

Mr Kennedy said that when Mr Kenna left the prison he was carrying fifteen Christmas cards and that CCTV showed him passing through the visitors' locker room and the carpark with the cards "visibly" in his left hand.

The barrister said that Mr Kenna was stopped and searched in the carpark by detectives, and when his right jeans' pocket was turned out, an "IRA communiqué" fell to the ground.

"It had been in an intimate pocket," Mr Kennedy said. "A person might be careless in relation to a coat and coat pockets but is rarely careless about the trousers, given that they're usually wearing them."

The barrister asked, "Is this the type of pocket something falls into by accident? Is this the type of pocket something can be deposited into by a third party without the wearer noticing?"

Mr Kennedy submitted that it was the type of pocket in which people kept personal items, "items you want to protect, an item you don't want to drop or lose".

The only reasonable inference, he said, was that Mr Kenna knew "full well" what he had in his pocket.

Noting the Christmas cards, the barrister said, "Was it not the perfect cover to deliver a more sinister document?"

"No-one ever suspects Santa of committing a crime," he said.

"It's not a role for any gombeen," he added. "That's a role for a trusted lieutenant."

Siobhan Stack SC, for Mr Kenna, submitted that it was "very obvious that this case essentially rests on a single document."

She said that the significance of the document was "limited".

"It did not say anything at all about how gardai intercepted the operation," she said.

Ms Stack noted that by the time Mr Kenna visited the prison, the men mentioned in the document were already on bail.

"There is no evidence Mr Kenna knew what was on the document," she said. "There is no evidence whatsoever that Mr Kenna ever saw the document. It does not refer to him, it does not address him."

She said that the "absolute height of the prosecution case was that a message was carried".

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge John O'Hagan and Judge Flann Brennan, remanded Mr Kenna on continuing bail until next Thursday, when the court will deliver a verdict in the case.

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