County Armagh 'family man' given three years for ATM thefts

Image source, Garda
Image caption,
A digger at the scene of an attempted cash machine robbery in Virginia, County Cavan, in 2019

A County Armagh "family man" who got involved in a cross-border crime gang that stole €790,000 (£669,000) from cash machines has been jailed.

Niall Finnegan from Cherry Grove, Cullyhanna, has been sentenced to three years in prison, RTÉ reports.

On Monday, a judge denied his request for a delayed sentence so he could spend Christmas with his children.

The group carried out six cash machine raids in counties Cavan, Monaghan and Meath between 2018 and 2019.

The gang was based in south Armagh and east Monaghan.

The 39-year-old admitted possessing €103,000 (£87,245) in cash on 20 August 2019, after a cash machine robbery.

Sentencing Finnegan at Dublin's Special Criminal Court, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said there was "a pressing social need" to deter such crimes in rural areas, as the cash machines may not be replaced.

On 14 August 2019, the gang was disturbed by gardaí (Irish police) as they tried to rob the cash machine from a bank in Virginia, County Cavan and three men were arrested.

Image source, RTÉ
Image caption,
Dublin's Special Criminal Court heard Niall Finnegan was a "family man"

The court heard that six days later, Finnegan met with one of the men after he was released and went to land in Tullypole, County Meath, where they dug up some of the stolen cash and put it in a shed.

When gardaí raided the shed, they found €298,900 in two plastic containers. They also stopped a car Finnegan was in and found €15,000 in the footwell and another €88,900 in the boot.

Finnegan admitted he had made a mistake, pleaded guilty and said he would stay out of trouble for the rest of his life, the court was told.

The court heard he was a GAA referee, and "a hard-working family man" involved with his community, who volunteered and showed "exceptional kindness and care" to others.

Mr Justice Hunt refused Finnegan's request begin his sentence after Christmas, and said "the sooner the sentence starts, the sooner it's over".

He sentenced him to four-and-a-half years in prison, with 18 months of that suspended.

Finnegan hugged his daughter and wept in the dock before he was taken away.