‘Arthur Daly’ type car dealer found guilty of IRA membership

Robert O’Leary supplied vehicle for dissident car bombing operation in Belfast

An “Arthur Daly” type used-car dealer who supplied a vehicle for a dissident operation to place a bomb under a PSNI officer’s car in Belfast has been found guilty of IRA membership.

Robert O'Leary (42) of Clancy Road, Finglas, Dublin 11 had denied membership of an unlawful organisation, styling itself as the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, at a location within the State on August 20th, 2019.

Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said the Skoda Octavia car had been used to survey the area around the PSNI officer's home in Belfast and stopped nearby for three minutes while the device was planted under his car.

The judge said the accused man had invented a purchaser for the Skoda car — a mysterious man — to break the link between him and the Octavia.


The defendant had bought, moved on and repaired the car in a “purposeful way” and to suggest that this was some kind of “spontaneous long-shot” was not borne out by the CCTV in the case, he added.

O’Leary, who described himself as a “bit of an Arthur Daly” [the lead character from the 1980s UK TV series ‘Minder’] told detectives in his interviews that they were “barking up the wrong tree” and “never in a million years” would he source a car for use in an IRA operation.

In his opening address to the three-judge court last July, prosecution counsel Paul Greene SC said the charge related to the discovery of an “under-vehicle improvised explosive device” located beneath the car of a serving PSNI officer at Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast on June 1st, 2019.

After the bomb was discovered, the New IRA claimed responsibility by issuing a statement through a journalist that read: “The IRA claims responsibility for the recent under-car booby-trap. We are confident that the device would have exploded if not for the terrain it travelled over. We were unlucky this time but we only need to be lucky once.”

Mr Greene said the PSNI had investigated the movements of the officer’s car, a Jeep Cherokee, around Belfast on the days previous to the discovery and contacted gardaí about the burning out of two cars nearby on June 1st. One of the two cars was a 2001 southern-registered Skoda Octavia.

The barrister said evidence would be given that the Octavia had previously ended up in the yard of O’Leary, a used-car dealer, in May of 2019, and that he was alleged to have altered the log book with an “untruthful address”.

Mr Greene said that the accused would say that he sold the car to a “stocky man, in his 60s” for €700.

Delivering judgment on Monday, Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Dermot Dempsey, said that the court accepted the belief evidence of Chief Superintendent Anthony Howard and were satisfied that it was on the "strong rather than weak side."

Chief Supt Howard testified to the court in July that he believed the Dublin man was a member of the IRA at the time. He noted that the material he reviewed against O’Leary was “substantial” and he understood that the defendant had been tasked by the IRA “to carry out jobs”.

In summary, Mr Justice Hunt said that the three-judge court had received both belief evidence as well as a “close temporal connection” between the accused and the car, which was used in serious IRA activity.

The non-jury court convicted O’Leary on the single count of IRA membership.

O’Leary was remanded on continuing bail until October 5th, when he will be sentenced.