A father-of-seven who was caught with more than €70,000 worth of cocaine in his car told gardaí he was holding it to help pay off his son's drug debt.

Gardaí found a 1.1 kilogram block of cocaine under the driver seat of John McElroy's car after pulling him over in Cabra, Dublin on 25 January last year.

McElroy, 60, with an address at Oakwood Park, Finglas, told gardaí he had only accepted the package an hour earlier and that he was holding it in order to pay €200 off his son's €50,000 drug debt.

He pleaded guilty to one count of possessing cocaine for sale or supply at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. He will be sentenced on 2 April.

Garda Marguerite Reilly told the court that gardaí pulled over McElroy's car as he was driving through Dublin after they were given a tip-off about the cocaine. They discovered an Aldi bag under the driver seat containing the drugs, which had a street value of €70,840.

When questioned, McElroy said he didn't know what was in the package, but he assumed it was something "bad". He said his son had run up a drug debt and he was trying to help him out.

He has one minor conviction for holding a mobile phone while driving.

Garda Reilly told the court gardaí did not believe McElroy was involved in the drugs scene. "Under no circumstances is it the belief of myself or any garda colleagues that he is living off the proceeds of drugs," she said. "It was a one-off incident that he was holding these drugs to pay off the drug debt for his son."

Judge Melanie Greally said she had one issue with this scenario, noting McElroy was being paid just €200 to pay off a €50,000 debt. "Either the enterprise was not going to be a one-off or else it was going to make virtually no impact on the debt," the judge said.

Dominic McGinn SC, defending, said this was a measure of how naive McElroy was.

He said this was "one of those wholly exceptional circumstances" in which someone was before the court "because of misplaced loyalty to his family".

The court heard McElroy was in the army between 1976 and 1991 and carried out two tours of Lebanon. He was diagnosed with cancer five years ago and is currently on disability benefit. He has seven children from two marriages.

Judge Greally adjourned the case to get a probation report. She warned McElroy she would not be able to impose a non-custodial sentence, given the value of the drugs involved. She said the remaining weeks would give him time to "arrange his affairs".