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Imagine if three MPs had written to the British courts to seek bail and leniency for an Al Qaeda bomber who was charged and subsequently convicted of planning a bomb in Westminster?

Imagine if one of the MPs had said that the bomber, who intended to kill the Queen or Prince Charles, was actually of good character, and ‘a hard worker’.

It’s incredible, but this is what has happened in Ireland. It absolutely beggars belief, but it is also amazing that so little fuss has been made about it.

The TD Maureen O’Sullivan, a successor to Tony Gregory’s legacy in Dublin Central, wrote a letter to the courts saying that Donal Ó Coisdealbha, 25, who has just been given five-and-half years in prison on explosive charges was a “fine, intelligent, articulate and hardworking young man”.

O’Sullivan was joined in her support for the bomber, by two left wing Independent TDs, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, who before the trail requested bail for the offender, even though the weight of evidence was overwhelming about the deadly actions that Ó Coisdealbha was up to.

The presiding judge, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy clearly found it bizarre and criticised as ‘puzzling’ the letter written by O Sullivan on behalf of a Real IRA member. Ó Coisdealbha, 25, from Killester was planning a big explosion during the visit of Britain’s Prince Charles last year

The evidence against the young bomber was damning. He was arrested during a Garda operation which recovered explosive devices, improvised rockets, detonators, timing units and Semtex and he was held as part of a Garda investigation into the activities of dissident republicans. He had been under surveillance for five months and was seen continuously meeting convicted IRA members in city pubs – as well as acting suspiciously at the back of Glasnevin Cemetery.

In a house in Wexford that Ó Coisdealbha had access to, were found four improvised rockets, a booster tube, five phones, Semtex, homemade explosives, a timing power unit, a broken circuit board, a cord of cortex and two detonators.

Preparations were well advanced for an operation that would have caused international headlines and major embarassment and mayhem for Ireland.

What makes it so extraordinary is that the TDs would make a gesture of support for a bomber like this at a time when international terrorism has never been a more ruthless or hated phenomenon, after the attacks in Paris, Tunisia and elsewhere. This is not like the so-called ‘war years’ when young people might have got caught up in the chaos of civil conflict.

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This is cold calculated terrorism and possible murder. It is the actions of dissident republicans who still try to callously kill policemen in the North as they drive to work and who also attack mainstream Sinn Fein (and the ex IRA ) as sell-outs.

Significantly, O Coisdealbha is a son of James ‘Mortar’ Monaghan of the Columbia Three, an IRA bomb unit caught in Columbia, so it makes one wonder about the line between the mainstream, IRA and dissidents. The young man has been living with his parents. Just how many knew what this deadly bomber was up to?

Maureen O’Sullivan has said she abhors violence but intervened in this case because remand prisoners are spending too long without being tried. But at the very least one has to question her judgement. She said she wasn’t aware, when she wrote the letter, for example, that O Coisdealbha has pleaded guilty. She also says she believes that he wants to move away from terrorism and turn over a new leaf.

But how likely is that a man with such a background, and so intensely involved in terrorism, just a year ago, would now simply walk away from it all? Could the public trust that Deputy O’Sullivan has got this one right?

Predictably, the other TDs, Wallace and Daly, usually so vocal on many issues, have refused to respond to repeated questions about their foolish and dangerous ‘radical chic’ gesture – even though they expect very full answers on so many other matters, like garda whistleblowers and NAMA.

But this controversy also raises serious questions about politicians intervening in the criminal process.

If this man’s rights were being infringed (which they weren’t given his guilty plea) the proper process was for his lawyers to bring a court case – to the High Court, Supreme Court or to Europe.

It is not proper for any politicians to use their office to try to influence judges. If they were on trial and politicians tried to intervene against them, the same TDs would be crying blue murder!

The real problem here is in really thinking through the actual spectacular evil that was being considered. This was no anarchic movie-like stunt that might have disrupted Prince Charles long overdue and heartfelt visit to Ireland. It would have been a brutal attack on Ireland itself and on our hospitality and civilised values.

Terrorist bombs don’t just kill their intended targets. Actually, they kill civilians: women, children, the elderly. They kill the little girls carrying flowers and the local guides brought out to show the VIPs their area. They kill Irish citizens. They could well have killed some of Maureen O’Sullivan’s own constituents. How would she feel about that? Or about the orphans that this bomb could have made : the widows and the grieving parents of little children?

Let’s not forget, after all, that it was these ‘splinter Republicans’ who bombed Omagh – and would like to do something similar again. Is that the kind of thing these people would countenance ? They wanted this young bomber out on bail: what if, knowing he was facing serious jail time, he had decided to go on a final killing spree? Would they accept the responsibility for that?

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Above: Maureen O’Sullivan TD

Bear in mind also that these people have been furiously defending the right of TDs to free speech without interference from the judiciary right now. But the judiciary has the same right to operate without interference from TDs.

These parliamentarians are supposed to be upholding democracy, not helping those who are out to destroy it? What would they think if Prince Charles visit had actually been bombed, and eternal hatred and embarrassment brought to Ireland and all those concerned ? It doesn’t even bear thinking about.

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