A Dublin man jailed after Garda police raided what they claimed was a Provisional IRA ‘spy ring’ was has lost a legal battle to stop the courts accepting secret and unopposable ‘intelligence’ evidence.
Kenneth Donohoe was fond guilty membership of the IRA by the Special Criminal Court in 2004 after he was one of a number of men stopped in a housing estate in Bray, County Wicklow, in 2002.
At the trial, a member of the Gardai privately told the judges that he believed Donohoe was an IRA member based on confidential information. That evidence was accepted without question by the court, which was set up under special anti-republican legislation and sits without a jury.
Mr Donohoe argued to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg that the situation denied his fundamental right to defend himself. His legal team said it was unfair for the judges to be presented with allegations of which he was denied knowledge.
In a ruling issued on Wednesday, the European Court of Human Rights claimed that the need to protect state informers was “compelling” and it accepted that the Dublin court’s review of information was “adequate and reliable”.
Mr Donohoe was convicted of IRA membership along with Stephen Birney, Patrick Brennan, Thomas Gilson, Sean O’Donnell, John Troy and Niall Binead. At the time, Mr Binead was named in the court as an election agent for Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh.
In a separate development, five other men and women accused of Provisional IRA membership have received bail pending trial. The charges they face which relate to meetings allegedly held by the organisation in the late 1990s and 2000.
West Belfast women Briege Wright and Agnes McCrory face counts relating to “the arrangement or management of, or addressing a meeting of three or more people, knowing that the meeting was to support a proscribed [illegal] organisation, further the activities of a proscribed organisation, or was to be addressed by a person belonging or professing to belong to a proscribed organisation, namely, the Provisional Irish Republican Army”.
The others include Belfast man Seamus Finucane, a brother of murdered defence lawyer Pat Finucane; Padraic Wilson, a former leader of the Provisional IRA in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, and Martin Morris, with an address in London.
The charges have been linked with meetings which allegedly took place following the murder of east Belfast man Robert McCartney in a city centre knife-fight in 2005.
At the time, Mr McCartney’s sisters claimed that IRA members had been involved in a ‘clean up’ following the fight. They also accused republicans linked to the Provisional movement of covering up events and threatening witnesses in order to cover up for IRA members.
The Provisional IRA subsequently said it had expelled three members over the incident.