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Members of the Real IRA at a ceremony in Londonderry. Photo by: Niall Carson/PA

County Louth man tells police IRA membership is 'a one way ticket to death or jail'

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Members of the Real IRA at a ceremony in Londonderry. Photo by: Niall Carson/PA

A man from County Louth has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organization styling itself on the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He told the gardai (Irish police) that being involved in the IRA would be “stupid” and would lead to “a one-way ticket to death or jail.”

Neil Smith (35), from Drogheda, denies his involvement in Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise known as the IRA.

During the trial on Tuesday, police provided evidence of the movements of five men traveling in two cars on 8th August, 2010. When the Special Detective Unit stopped the cars, they found a loaded sawn off shotgun, a black balaclava and a Halloween mask. The car had been fitted with false number plates.

Smith was a passenger in one of these cars.

A number of bags of icing sugar were also found in another car driven by the accused earlier that day.

Una Ni Raifeartaigh SC, the lawyer for the prosecution, told the court that an expert would tell them icing sugar is often used in the production of homemade explosives.

Tara Burns BL, lawyer for the defense, and police Detective Gordon Wolfe agreed that during seven interviews taken at the Balbriggan station in Dublin, the accused had said that on the morning of the arrest a friend and he had called to another man’s house to join in some weight training and boxing.

They travelled to Dundalk but he said he didn’t know why the other man had wanted to drive in to the town. He did not ask.

He has denied his membership in the IRA.

Smith did agree that his employer at a scrapyard had some association with the IRA. He also admitted that the driver of the cars, which the police had been watching, were speaking on their cell phones as they drove.

When the police suggested that he was not telling the whole story, Smith said, “I don’t see it being stupid is getting involved with the IRA, getting involved is a one-way ticket to death or jail.”

The accused has said that his entanglement in this case is just “bad luck” and a case of being “in the middle of all this.”

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