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Aidan O'Driscoll was shot dead in Blackpool, Cork
Aidan O'Driscoll was shot dead in Blackpool, Cork

Duo jailed over execution of Real IRA figure O’Driscoll

TWO men have been jailed in connection with the execution of Aidan “The Beast” O’Driscoll, who was killed on a busy Cork street in a “well-planned” hit as part of an internal dispute between the Real IRA and the New IRA.

Mr O’Driscoll was leaving work when he was confronted by a gunman who fired a shot into him. He tried to run from his assailant and the first attacker’s gun appeared to jam, but a second gunman followed and shot him, the Special Criminal Court heard.

Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that the three-judge court was satisfied that the two men’s acts “constituted substantial assistance to a very serious crime”.

While the prosecution did not go as far as to allege that any of the defendants knew they were assisting a murder, they must have known they were assisting “high level and criminal activity”, outlined the judge.

Mr O’Driscoll, a senior figure in the Real IRA in Munster, died after he was shot four times on the Old Commons Rd, in Blackpool, Cork, on December 7, 2016.

Colin Casey, aged 32, was sentenced yesterday to four years and six months in prison, while his co-accused Daniel Hegarty, aged 24, was jailed for four years.

Casey and Hegarty, whose addresses were not before the court, had both pleaded guilty to four counts of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of the killers of Mr O’Driscoll in Cork.

Casey collected the alleged gunmen from the Redemption Rd area of Blackpool after they had arrived in a silver Nissan Almera. He drove them from that location in a white Vauxhall Astra van which he subsequently burned out, along with the Nissan Almera.

Hegarty collected a bag used by the alleged killers in the vicinity of Farranferris, Blackpool, and buried it at an isolated location. He also set fire to a Honda CBR motorbike used to transport the bag, and was involved in the burning of a red Opel Astra car.

A probation report was sought by the court in relation to a third man, Eoin Morrissey, and his sentence will be finalised in October.

Morrissey, aged 19, with an unknown address, had also pleaded guilty to two counts of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Mr O’Driscoll’s killers.

Morrissey provided Hegarty, his first cousin, with a firelighter which was used to burn the red Opel Astra car. He also admitted following Hegarty to Inchamay, Naad, Banteer, where the red Opel Astra was burnt out, to provide transport for Hegarty after the burning.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Ann Ryan, said a victim impact statement had been handed in and the court found “very great harm” had been done as a result of this incident.

The maximum sentence for each defendant was 10 years’ jail, the judge indicated. Sentencing Casey, Mr Justice Hunt said his assistance consisted of sourcing cars used in the murder and being a “support driver”. Regarding the gravity of the offence, the judge said it fell at the lower end of the top range and the headline sentence was seven years in prison. In mitigation, the judge noted that Casey had made admissions to gardaí in relation to his own role in the event and his guilty plea carried significant value. A discount of two years was applied to the sentence.

Casey was sentenced to concurrent sentences of four years and six months on all counts.

Referring to Hegarty, the judge said the mechanic had transported and concealed a bag connected to those directly involved in the murder. It fell in the upper end of the medium range in terms of offending and attracted a headline sentence of six years, he said.

Two mitigating factors in his sentence were that his mother had died when he was young, and that he had received a Garda information message as a result of his involvement in the killing of Mr O’Driscoll. A discount of two years was applied and he was sentenced to four years on each count, to run concurrently.

The two men’s sentences were backdated to March 11, 2019.

While Casey and Hegarty’s assistance had been “substantial and proximate”, Mr Justice Hunt said Morrissey’s situation was “significantly different” as he had become involved after the event, due to a family relationship with Hegarty.

Morrissey’s assistance had been “less proximate” than that of his two co-accused, he said, adding that the headline sentence was two years.

Mitigating factors in sentencing, Mr Justice Hunt said, were the fact that Morrissey was only 17 years old at the time and had no previous convictions. The court heard he is a student and had an interest in cars which he shared with Hegarty, his cousin. His youth was a significant factor as he was susceptible to the influence of older people.

A suspended sentence must be considered in Morrissey’s case but was subject to a favourable probation report, outlined the judge.

The court ordered a probation report for Morrissey and adjourned the matter until October 21.