A 51-year-old man has been sentenced to six years in prison for conspiring to possess a gun, explosives and firearms.

Thomas Bates, with an address at Abbey Street in Cahir, Co Tipperary, was found guilty on three conspiracy charges after a trial at Clonmel Circuit Court in May and sentenced today.

The court heard that he was not the "prime mover" in the conspiracy which involved an attempt to buy the items from the United States via the Darknet, but was an important part.

Detective Superintendent Michael Gibbons told the sentencing hearing in Clonmel today that an FBI operative who was carrying out surveillance on the Darknet encountered a communication in September of 2017 from somebody in Ireland who wanted to engage in the purchase of illicit objects, namely firearms, explosives and ammunition.

The FBI contacted the gardaí who decided to pursue an investigation. A decision was made to prepare a number of packages for delivery to the address specified by the online purchaser, which was at The Green Door, Abbey Street, Cahir, Co Tipperary.

A "purchase" was confirmed online, with $800 paid in Bitcoin for the items.

The three packages were set up by the garda drugs unit and contained two inert hand grenades, a decommissioned Glock pistol and 30 dummy rounds of ammunition.

The buyer was not before the court and not named in court. There was no suggestion that Mr Bates was the person who made the order.

Arrangements were put in place online to have the packages delivered and they were delivered on 10 November 2017 to the address in Cahir, and accepted at that address by Thomas Bates.

He told the delivery person that the packages were for his son, Tim Bates, who was in hospital. There was no such person.

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The packages were left inside the door of the house and surveillance continued at the address and at about 2.30pm, Thomas Bates and another man who also stood trial but was acquitted on all charges were seen "running from the premises," the court heard.

They were intercepted by the surveillance team, restrained and arrested. The property on Abbey Street was searched and a number of items turned up, including cardboard packaging. Also, there had been a fire in the back garden.

In garda interviews Bates denied any involvement in any offences.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges at a trial in May but was found guilty by a jury of conspiring to possess a firearm, explosives and ammunition, and found not guilty to a charge of possessing ammunition.

The court heard that  Bates was originally from Liverpool but his father was Irish and living in a nursing home in Co Tipperary.

He had a number of previous convictions, including an eight-year prison sentence imposed in Cadiz, Spain, in 1994 for the possession of drugs with intent to supply.

Kathleen Leader SC, defending, said her client was not "the controlling mind" in this case. 

Judge Thomas Teehan said "this was an operation that required a good deal of planning" and "a considerable number of steps were taken to ensure that this importation of items, including explosives, a firearm and ammunition, were not detected by the authorities.

"Mr Bates is not the principal in this, but he was a very important part of it. That is an aggravating factor here," Judge Teehan said.

He imposed a seven-year sentence on each of the three counts, to run concurrently, and suspended the final year of the sentence.