IRA accused's calls 'not recorded'

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A Dublin court has adjourned the trial of two men accused of IRA membership to give lawyers time to consider asking for a check on two police stations.

The move followed revelations about the recording of phone calls to and from stations in the Republic of Ireland.

However, the court ruled that the trial of the two Limerick men should go ahead.

The judge said he had heard "positive" evidence that neither of the stations was part of the recording of calls.

Central control

The court heard evidence from an officer in the telecommunications section of the country's police force, An Garda Síochána, who is carrying out a review of the system.

He told the court a system was in place in 23 stations outside Dublin, which were divisional headquarters, and at Harcourt Square and Garda Headquarters.

He said the system dated back to 1996 and was upgraded in 2008.

He said the system was centrally controlled at police headquarters and was switched off last November.

The contents of calls were stored centrally but could be accessed locally on the instruction of a chief superintendent.

He said an interface unit was installed in certain stations and connected to designated extensions. It uploaded the contents of calls to a central storage device at HQ.

He said he was carrying out a review of the system, which had been ordered 48 hours before, and was ongoing. However, he said there were "also some inquiries" made before that.

He said two County Tipperary stations at Cahir and Clonmel at the centre of the case before the Special Criminal Court were not involved.

Prosecuting barristers said calls were not recorded in stations where two men accused of IRA membership were detained and the trial should proceed.

'Independent examination'

Defence lawyers had objected to the trial going ahead without further information on whether or not their clients' phone calls from police stations had been taped.

Thomas McMahon, 31, of Ross Fearna Murroe, County Limerick, and his co-accused 34-year-old Noel Noonan of St Patrick's Hostel, Clare Street in Limerick were due to stand trial on Wednesday.

Defence counsel had earlier urged the court not to embark on its own inquiry in advance of the inquiry announced by the government.

After hearing evidence from the telecommunications officer she said there was no physical examination of the stations involved and rejected the prosecution's contention that there was "clear physical evidence" that no recordings have taken place.

She said her client had instructed her that an independent expert examination of the stations in question be carried out.

The judge said he had heard first-hand and impressive evidence from the officer and the case should go on.

However, he said he would give the defence an opportunity to consider if they wanted to have a physical inspection of the two stations by an expert.

The case was adjourned to next Tuesday.

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