Northern Ireland news

IRA membership conviction quashed after picture mix-up

Alan Ryan was shot dead in 2012

A taxi driver whose DNA was found on the number plate of a car which blew up outside Newry courthouse in 2010 has had his conviction for IRA membership quashed on appeal.

Darren Weldon (47), from Kilbarrack in Dublin but with an address at Drinadaly in Trim, Co Meath, had pleaded not guilty at the Special Criminal Court to membership of an unlawful organisation on October 14, 2014.

He was found guilty by the non-jury court and sentenced to five years imprisonment with the final year suspended on January 16, 2017.

Weldon has his conviction quashed today after the Court of Appeal found the trial court had made a “factually incorrect” finding in relation to a photo on Weldon’s iPhone.

Extracting a key strand from the combination of evidence left a “substantial gap” in the trial court’s reasoning, causing the Court of Appeal to consider his conviction was “unsafe”.

During the trial, Dublin's Special Criminal Court heard evidence that a car bomb exploded outside Newry courthouse in February 2010. Police found a DNA sample on the number plate of the car, recovered from debris, which matched swabs taken from Weldon upon arrest four years later.

Weldon had been arrested before, in September 2012, for suspected IRA membership, after attending the funeral of Alan Ryan, who was one of six men jailed for taking part in a "Real IRA" training camp in Co Meath in October, 1999.

The Special Criminal Court relied on a picture message dedicated to Alan Ryan, found on Weldon's phone, with the caption: “Heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done regardless of the consequences.”

It also relied on a photo which, the court said, showed Weldon in the company of two other individuals who had criminal convictions for membership of the same unlawful organisation.

In fact, the photo showed the late Vincent Ryan (the late Alan Ryan’s brother) and Philip Forsyth, neither of whom had convictions for membership of an unlawful organisation, and Weldon was not in the photo.

Vincent Ryan was shot dead in 2016, four years after his brother Alan,

Weldon’s conviction was quashed, a retrial was ordered and the 47-year-old was admitted to bail to appear before the Special Criminal Court on Friday, June 29 next.

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