Jim Mansfield Jnr arranged meetings with the New IRA and the INLA, who were to "assist" in getting back parts of his family's former property portfolio, a key witness has told the Special Criminal Court.
Martin Byrne, who is now in the Witness Protection Programme, also told the non-jury court that after a separate meeting with former INLA man Dessie O'Hare and former Republican paramilitary Declan "Whacker" Duffy, he asked Mr Mansfield if he realised how dangerous these people were. However, the witness testified that the accused replied that he "did not care" and "was going to get back what was his."
The three-judge court also heard that Mr Mansfield Jnr was "a couple of feet away" when his long-term employee Mr Byrne was taken prisoner by a gang of seven men, which included O'Hare and Duffy.
Mr Byrne testified that he believed Mr Mansfield Jnr had set him up and tried to confront him but was grabbed from behind and pushed into a waiting car.
Amid heightened security arrangements at the Special Criminal Court today in Dublin, Martin Byrne gave evidence in the trial of Mr Mansfield (53), of Tasaggart House, Garters Lane, Saggart, Co Dublin, who is charged with conspiracy to commit false imprisonment and with attempting to pervert the course of justice five years ago.
The accused man is charged with conspiring with one or more persons to falsely imprison Martin Byrne on a date unknown between January 1st, 2015 and June 30th, 2015, both dates inclusive.
He is also charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice by directing Patrick Byrne to destroy recorded CCTV footage, with the alleged intention of perverting the course of public justice in relation to the false imprisonment of Martin Byrne at Finnstown House Hotel, Newcastle Road, Lucan, Co Dublin between June 9th, 2015 and June 12th, 2015.
Mr Mansfield has pleaded not guilty to both counts on the indictment.
It is the prosecution's case that Mr Mansfield "effectively delivered" Martin Byrne into the arms of a group of men who falsely imprisoned him and his family.
Giving evidence to the non-jury court today from the jury box where two security men were present, key witness Martin Byrne described the events leading up to June 9th, 2015.
Mr Byrne told prosecuting counsel, Shane Costelloe SC, that he is originally from Cabra west in Dublin. The witness said he undertook courses as a security professional before he "got a taste for close protection and being a bodyguard".
As his career advanced, Mr Byrne said he moved onto "personal close protection of high net individuals and celebrities". The witness said he was the in-house security director of Citywest Hotel in Saggart in 2004 and was hired by Jim Mansfield Senior but knew the accused man very well.
Mr Byrne testified that a receiver, Martin Ferris, took over Citywest Hotel around 2011 and the Delata Hotel Group came in to manage the Citywest Hotel on behalf of Bank of Scotland. The witness said this did not end his employment with the Mansfields and he was asked by the Delata Group to stay on as head of security during the transition, which he agreed to.
In his evidence, Mr Byrne said Saggart Lodge Court, a piece of land known as "Paddy Reilly's Field" which was at the back of the Citywest Hotel and Finnstown House Hotel, later went into receivership.
A third party, who was an old friend of Jim Mansfield Snr, was brought in to act on behalf of the family as Mr Ferris did not want to deal with Mr Mansfield Snr directly, he said.
It was always the understanding that Mr Mansfield Jnr would get the properties back, originally on the basis that the receivership was illegal and they should not have come in when they did, he said. A financial backer then helped the third party buy "Paddy Reilly's Field" from the receiver.
Mr Byrne explained how the Mansfields had retained control of three pieces of land around the family home, Tasaggart House, which were dubbed "ransom strips" as they had key access routes to the Citywest Hotel and other properties which could not be sold without them.
The Mansfields believed that by having these "ransom strips on the table" they could negotiate getting their other properties within the portfolio back, he continued. The witness said it was described to him by the accused as "like buying a house and not owning your front door".
Mr Byrne said it was understood that money was to be paid by the accused to the third party to buy back "Paddy Reilly's Field" but this was never paid over, which led to a fall out between Mr Mansfield and the third party.
Meeting with New IRA
Mr Byrne said a series of meetings were set up so that Mr Mansfield Jnr could get control back of the properties which the third party had. The witness said he was asked to meet with members of the New IRA "to assist the accused" in getting back "Paddy Reilly's Field".
The witness said the accused man was responsible for bringing these people who styled themselves as the New IRA to the meetings. The accused said he also attended meetings with people from INLA and Mr Mansfield Jnr had asked them to step in.
In May 2015, Mr Byrne said he went to a meeting in Keatings Park in Rathcoole with the accused to get Tasaggart House and The Towers signed back over to Mr Mansfield Jnr. When he got to the meeting at Keatings Park, Dessie O'Hare and Declan Duffy were in the reception area, he said.
He said at that point that he did not care and he was going to get back what was his
Following that meeting, Mr Byrne said he asked Mr Mansfield Jnr if he realised how dangerous these people were and what the consequences would be if they were involved. "He said at that point that he did not care and he was going to get back what was his," the witness added. Mr Byrne said he felt the accused was going down his own route and having meetings behind his back.
In June 2015, the witness said Mr Mansfield Jnr organised another meeting with O'Hare at Keating's Park. Mr Byrne arrived with the accused and when they went inside to a reception area to a set of offices they met O'Hare who shook hands with Mr Mansfield Jnr and both of them walked upstairs. Mr Byrne followed them into an upstairs office and then Declan Duffy arrived. Mr Byrne said: "I was surprised because I didn't see any reason for him to be there."
'You set me up'
The witness remembered O'Hare telling Mr Mansfield: "You're done here now, you can leave."
When Mr Mansfield left the witness became concerned, he continued. He said O'Hare told him his services were no longer required. Mr Byrne explained: "I said at that point that I had dealt with a lot of issues and problems over the years and I was surprised to be treated the way I was being treated in relation to my dealings with the Mansfields."
Then Duffy shouted and five other men arrived in the office, he said.
Mr Byrne said they told him they were going to take him home to the Towers, and that he was to vacate the premises there and then. He said he was escorted downstairs with three men in front and four behind. He said he felt he was not able to leave and when he asked for time to make his own way home they refused.
Once downstairs he said he could see Mr Mansfield Jnr standing out the front. He said: "At that point I believed he had set me up and knew what was happening. I said to him, 'you set me up,' and the guys came from behind and grabbed me."
He said Mr Mansfield Jnr was "a couple of feet away" as one of the seven men emptied his pockets, taking cash, a bank card, his watch and telephone.
He said he was put into the back of a navy Honda with one man on either side, one in the passenger seat and the driver. "I could not leave," he said.
Wife and son
O'Hare came to the car and handed the driver a piece of paper with Mr Byrne's address on it, said Mr Byrne. When Mr Byrne asked to be let go so he could get his wife and son out of his house he said the man in the front passenger seat punched him on the left side of the face with a closed fist and told him to shut up.
The group of seven men and Mr Byrne travelled in convoy in a Ford Mondeo, the Honda and a white Transit van to the Towers where Mr Byrne was struck a second time by the same man, he said.
When they went inside, having broken through a security gate, Mr Byrne's wife was there with their son. All seven men went into Mr Byrne's home.
Let's go, it's your turn
When a security man knocked on the door the gang grabbed him and pulled him inside. O'Hare, Duffy and another man got the security guard on the ground and beat him up, the witness said. They then picked him up and brought him to another house, before O'Hare told the witness: "Let's go, it's your turn."
Inside the house he saw the security guard, "in a bad way, going in and out of consciousness as far as I could see."
Mr Byrne was struck and suffered a burst eardrum and would later require stitches. On a CCTV monitor he saw a red unmarked garda car that he knew from the area, pulling up outside. He said he saw a chance to escape and told O'Hare he would get rid of the gardaí. When Mr Byrne went outside he alerted gardaí and within minutes a garda helicopter and garda cars were at the scene.
The trial continues on Monday before Mr Justice Alexander Owens presiding, sitting with Judge Sinead Ni Chulachain and Judge James Faughnan.
In April 2019, Former INLA man Dessie O'Hare, who was known as "The Border Fox", was jailed by the Special Criminal Court for three years for assaulting John Roche and ten years with three suspended for the rest of his life for falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne.
The sentences were to run concurrently. The 63-year-old, of Slate Rock Road, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh, admitted to assaulting Mr Roche, causing him harm, at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, County Dublin on June 9th, 2015. O'Hare also pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne at Rathcoole and Saggart on the same date.
Former Republican paramilitary Declan "Whacker" Duffy was sentenced by the Special Criminal Court to six years imprisonment in 2018 after pleading guilty to assaulting John Roche, causing him harm, at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, County Dublin on June 9, 2015. He also admitted falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne at Rathcoole/Saggart on the same date.