The case of a Co Louth man who spent 14 months in prison for IRA membership before his conviction was overturned has been declared "a miscarriage of justice".

Michael Connolly, of Grange Drive in Dundalk, denied he was a member of the IRA but was convicted and jailed in June 2017.

The prosecution had claimed that the 47-year-old had been observed by gardaí driving in convoy with another man, who was then found with two improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

However, the conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal in June 2018 and in a retrial of the case in 2019 Mr Connolly was acquitted of IRA membership after the Special Criminal Court found it could not rely on the belief evidence of a Garda Assistant Commissioner as being independent from the investigation.

The court examined the issue of whether there might have been "an overlap and therefore possible double counting" of matters contained in the garda intelligence file and matters in the Book of Evidence.

Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan, who gave evidence of his belief that Michael Connolly was a member of the IRA, told the court he had not seen the Book of Evidence and did not know what was in it.

Today the court found that "this assertion gave a false assurance to the original court of trial that the issue of double counting did not arise".

It said it was satisfied that "it was careless of the senior officer to make the relevant assertion" but there was no evidence the assertion was "misleading" and "nor could there be because the witness had no knowledge of what was in the Book of Evidence".

The court pointed out that "unhappily no application was made to recall the relevant garda officer to explain why he had relied on the entirety and totality of the materials in the intelligence file".

It also found that "if the issue of double counting had been considered, it is probable that the original court of trial would have considered itself compelled to acquit the applicant".

The Special Criminal Court concluded in its judgement today there has been "a grave defect in the administration of justice" which "constitutes a miscarriage of justice".

It pointed out however that it was satisfied "as to the existence of a body of circumstantial evidence which tended to implicate" Mr Connolly in "the transportation of two improvised explosive devices for a criminal purpose" on 16 December 2014.

"This is not therefore a case where a newly discovered fact establishes that the applicant was innocent of the crime alleged" the three judges found.

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