Alleged RIRA leader caught 'red-handed', court told

The alleged leader of the Real IRA in Munster was caught "red handed" in a bomb factory, a senior garda officer told the Special Criminal Court today.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Kelly, Limerick, described the accused, James Bullman, as the "number one person" in the Real IRA in Munster and "probably number three or four in the country in that organisation".

The Chief Superintendent was giving evidence in a bail application on behalf of Mr Bullman and his co-accused Christopher Dinneen.

Both men were arrested last week during a raid on Mr Dinneen's house in which gardai found three separate quantities of Semtex explosives, an AKM assault rifle and almost three hundred rounds of ammunition.

Chief Superintendent Kelly told the court that gardai found a brown bag containing high grade explosive "in its finished form" in Mr Dinneen's sitting room. The trial will hear evidence that James Bullman's fingerprint was found on the bag, he added.

The Chief Superintendent also said that approximately one kilo of raw Semtex was found in the fireplace. In the sink area, gardai discovered a plastic bag containing Semtex that was in the process of "being rendered down" to military high grade explosive. Gardai also found a hold all containing 201 rounds of 39mm calibre ammunition and another bag containing assorted ammunition.

Chief Superintendent Kelly said that in his opinion, both men were, and still are, members of the group styling itself the Real IRA. He described Mr Dinneen as a "sleeper" who was allegedly part of the "support system" of the organisation and that gardai were aware of this for some time.

The Chief Superintendent said that although not as active as Mr Bullmann, Christopher Dinneen was "not a facilitator - he was a participant" in the alleged "bomb factory. That was what was going on My Lords", he claimed.

Objecting to a bail application for James Bullman, Chief Superintendent Kelly told the court that the accused "is one of the key people in this organisation - one of the key people in the country" in terms of logistics of supply of firearms and ammunition. If released, he was satisfied he would continue to be a member of the IRA and would commit further offences. He objected to bail for Christopher Dinneen on the same grounds.

Cross examined by Mr Michael Bowman BL for both accused, the Chief Superintendent accepted that he had not read the forensics report on the explosives but "had been told" that the analysis showed positive.

Chief Superintendent Kelly said Mr Bullman would have been under regular surveillance before his arrest last week. He was not basing his opinion on the membership charge on what was recovered during the search.

Judge Joseph Matthews put it to the witness that, if Mr Bullman was such a prominent member of a dangerous organisation as alleged: "Why was he not arrested some years ago?" "He has been arrested before. Matters are ongoing" the witness replied.

In evidence, both men testified that they were not, and never had been, members of an unlawful organisation.

Refusing bail, Mr Justice Diarmuid O'Donovan said "the court must have regard to the strong objections to bail" by Chief Superintendent Kelly, particularly in relation to the alleged firearms and explosives finds.

James Bullman (aged 38) of St Ita's St., St Mary's Park, Limerick is charged with membership of an illegal organisation styling itself Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA on 6 November 2002.

He is also charged with possession of 201 rounds of 7.62mm by 39mm calibre ammunition, 40 assorted rounds of ammunition and forty two .45 inch rounds of ACP calibre ammunition. He is further charged that on 6 November at Sarsfield Court, Limerick, he knowingly had in his possession an explosive substance, Semtex.

Christopher Dinneen (aged 49) of Sarsfield Court, Garryowen, Limerick also faces the same charges in relation to membership and possession of explosives and ammunition, but in addition, is also charged with possession of an assault rifle.

Both men were remanded in custody until January 13 next.

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