Judge praises 'heroic' gardaí at IRA trial

A judge today praised two uniformed and unarmed gardaí who stopped 10 men in paramilitary gear in Balbriggan as "quite heroic" and said they "deserved much praise" for their action.

Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the Special Criminal Court said that " a very successful garda operation" was launched after an off-duty garda, Michael Mc Cabe, spotted two cars with five men in each car acting suspiciously on the M1 and followed them.

The judge said that eventually Garda Brian Daly and Garda Enda Muldoon, of Santry Garda Station, stopped the cars which contained 10 men in paramilitary type gear.

The judge made his comments as he jailed two Dublin men who were in the cars for six and a half years each for IRA membership.

Derek Palmer (aged 56), a father of seven, of Corduff Green, Blanchardstown, and Joe Clarke (aged 42), a father of four, of Geraldstown Woods, Santry, were convicted on December 14 last of membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA on July 14, 2011.

Both men had denied the charge.

The court suspended three years of Clarke's sentence after hearing an undertaking that he would not associate with subversives or members of illegal organisations and that he had been moved to Clover Hill prison after being in solitary confinement in Portlaoise Prison.

The court also suspended the final year of Palmer's sentence and said that while he had also given a similar undertaking to Clarke, the court found it less credible.

Detective Sergeant Donal Prenty, Special Detective Unit, told the court that Palmer and Clarke were with eight other men in Balbriggan on the night in question when the two cars they were travelling in were stopped and searched by gardaí.

Gardaí found a number of balaclavas, gloves and a sledge hammer handle. A search of the area turned up a number of other items including a copy of Saoirse Nua magazine which included photographs of what was described as a republican funeral cortege and gardaí believe Palmer and Clarke were in the photo.

Detective Sergeant Prenty said that Clarke had a previous conviction at the Special Criminal Court in November 2007 for IRA membership and had been jailed for four years.

He said that Palmer was convicted at the Special Criminal Court in January, 1992 and sentenced to five years for possession of firearms.

Palmer was also jailed for seven years by the Central Criminal Court in April, 1982 for possession of firearms.

He agreed with Palmer's counsel, Mr Padraig Dwyer SC that Palmer had not served the 1982 sentence in any republican wing in prison.

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