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'Arthur Daly type' found guilty of IRA membership

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Robert O'Leary. Photo: Collins Courts

Robert O'Leary. Photo: Collins Courts

Robert O'Leary. Photo: Collins Courts

A self-described "Arthur Daly" type used-car dealer who supplied a vehicle for a dissident operation to place a bomb under a PSNI officer's Jeep in Belfast has been found guilty of IRA membership.

Robert O'Leary (42), of Clancy Road, Finglas, Dublin, had denied membership of an unlawful organisation at a location in the State on August 20, 2019.

At the Special Criminal Court Mr Justice Tony Hunt said yesterday that a Skoda Octavia car had been used to survey the area around the PSNI officer's home in Belfast and stopped nearby for three minutes while the device was planted under his car.

O'Leary, who described himself as a "bit of an Arthur Daly" [from 1980s TV series Minder] told detectives "never in a million years" would he source a car for the IRA.

In his opening address last July, prosecution counsel Paul Greene SC said the charge related to the discovery of an "under-vehicle improvised explosive device" beneath the car of a PSNI officer at Shandon Park Golf Club in Belfast on June 1, 2019. The New IRA claimed responsibility.

Mr Greene said the PSNI investigated the movements of the officer's car, a Cherokee Jeep, around Belfast on the days before the discovery and told gardaĆ­ about the burning out of two cars nearby on June 1. One of these was a southern-registered Skoda Octavia.

The barrister said evidence would be given that in May of 2019, O'Leary was alleged to have altered the log book of the Skoda Octavia with an "untruthful address".

EVIDENCE

A statement of the PSNI officer, known as Officer One, said that he would usually check under his Jeep.

But could not do it discreetly in the mornings before the discovery.

Officer One said he drove to the golf course at 7.40am.

On returning to his car after playing golf he saw the car next to his reverse, clearing his view of his own vehicle, which allowed him to see the device.

Chief Supt Anthony Howard testified in July he believed O'Leary was in the IRA at the time. He said the material against him was "substantial".

Mr Justice Hunt said CCTV allowed the court to be sure the car driving around the police officer's residence was the Skoda Octavia. O'Leary will be sentenced on October 5.