A man who held a screwdriver to the neck of a primary school principal during an armed robbery in Co Longford last year has been sentenced to three years in prison.

James Cranny, 38, of Meadow Crest, Boyle, Co Roscommon, was sentenced at a sitting of Longford Circuit Criminal Court this morning following the incident at St Joseph's National School on 27 August 2020.

Cranny, who has more than 140 previous convictions, pleaded guilty to two charges of robbery, three charges of attempted robbery and one charge relating to the possession of a weapon.

The court heard he had been in Dublin on the day of the offence where he consumed a "cocktail of drink and drugs", including almost 80 sleeping and valium tablets before getting off a train in Longford shortly after 6pm.

Less than an hour later, Cranny interrupted a board of management meeting at the school in a bid to steal money to try to procure more drugs.

Armed with a screwdriver and pair of scissors, Cranny approached principal Orla Egan and put the screwdriver to her neck.

After being told by Ms Egan that she had no money, Cranny turned to board of management chairperson Frank Gearty, who in an attempt to diffuse the situation, handed Cranny €100 and guided him towards the exit door.

Cranny stole €135 from Mr Gearty and a further €100 from fellow board member Beatrice Shanley.

The court heard that Ms Shanley was able to take a photograph of Cranny, while another board member, Fr James McKiernan, "very cleverly and surreptitiously" managed to contact gardaí.

Judge Keenan Johnson said the entire episode had clearly been a "very traumatising and unsettling experience" for each of the five board members present.

He praised the actions of Mr Gearty, Ms Egan and the board's three other members, saying St Joseph's NS was fortunate to have such a "caring and committed" principal at its helm.

He sentenced Cranny to four years and six months in prison, suspending the final 18 months for a period of ten years, subject to a number of conditions.

The judge also ordered Cranny to complete a residential drug treatment course, with 18 months of release and refrain from both drugs and illicit substances for the entire period of the suspended sentence.

The beginning of the sentence was backdated to 4 January, when Cranny first went into custody.