Republic of Ireland news

Man jailed for explosives and bomb threats during queen's Ireland visit

Donal Billings was convicted at the Special Criminal Court of possessing explosives in May 2011. Picture by RTÉ

A MAN found guilty of possessing explosives and making false bomb threats during Queen Elizabeth's historic visit to Ireland has been jailed for eight and a half years.

Donal Billings (66) faced one explosives charge related to the discovery of a bomb on a Dublin-bound bus that was stopped west of the city at Maynooth in May 2011, the night before the British monarch arrived.

He also faced four additional charges of making hoax threats related to devices supposedly placed at Dublin Castle, where the queen was hosted at a state banquet, a Sinn Féin office in Dublin, a bus station in Dublin and Cork airport.

Billings, of St Bridget's Court, Drumlish, Co Longford, claimed two mortars at the castle would detonate at the time of the dinner. Nothing untoward was found.

The explosive device was discovered in a holdall in the luggage compartment of the bus when it was checked in Maynooth, Co Kildare. It comprised a firework timer switch, a copper pipe stuffed with gun powder and a plastic bottle of petrol.

Billings, a lone wolf with no known links to dissident groups, was accused of placing it on the bus when it stopped at Longford Railway Station.

There were 31 people on board when it was stopped by gardaí at Maynooth. It was intercepted following a bomb warning called in by Billings. The Garda launched a huge security operation in and around Dublin for the queen's visit.

Billings was found guilty of all five charges in the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin in October. Sentencing was delivered by Mr Justice Tony Hunt on Thursday.

He was caught after gardaí traced phone records and SIM cards.

Outside court, Detective Inspector Patrick Finlay welcomed the sentence.

He said: "You had an individual who was capable and intent on causing disruption to a state visit.

"The investigation itself shows the An Garda Síochána is carrying out inquiries behind the scenes that the public are unaware of and this particular individual we monitored and obtained evidence so we could bring him before the courts and prosecute."

A Garda spokesman said the investigation was centred in Longford and involved local officers as well as specialist national units.

"This investigation highlights the continuing significant challenges faced by An Garda Siochana in the context of monitoring and bringing to justice persons who have the capability and intent of disrupting particular events and being reckless as to the potential lethal consequences of the use of improvised explosive devices," he said.

"The gardaí would like to thank all the members of the public who assisted and cooperated with the security measures that were in place at the time of the queen's visit."

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