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McEntee bomb threat is ‘ludicrous’, accused tells court

A man accused of making a bomb threat to the Minister for Justice’s home has said the allegation is “ludicrous” and “does not make sense”.

Michael Murray, 52, formerly of Seafield Road, Killiney, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to one count of knowingly making a false report giving rise to an apprehension for the safety of someone else while he was imprisoned in the Midlands Prison, Portlaoise, on 7 March 2021.

The jury had heard earlier that an anonymous caller claiming to be from the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) had rung the Samaritans saying explosives had been planted at the home of the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee.

No explosives were found, but the call was traced to the Midlands Prison.

The person who made the call used a unique identification number registered to Mr Murray. He was alone in his prison cell with access to a telephone on the night.

In a gardaí interview after his arrest, Mr Murray denied making the phone call but accepted that he had links with the paramilitary group named in the threat.

He also said a group named the Criminal Revenge Group (CRG) were making “credible” and “immediate” threats to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and other civil servants.

Giving evidence today, Mr Murray said the allegations were “ludicrous”.

“It’s better to be truthful from the start. If you have not done something, you have nothing to lie about,” he told Garett Baker SC, defending.

Mr Murray said he had made a phone call to the Samaritans on the night of 7 March 2021 but that it “had absolutely nothing to do with the Justice Minister Helen McEntee”.

“Even from a logical perspective, this does not make sense,” he said, “that I would isolate myself in my cell on my own at 8.30 at night and threaten the highest ranking member of the Department of Justice is ludicrous.”

Mr Murray said if he wanted to make the threat, he could have entered someone else’s cell during the day. He said it did not make sense for him to do it on his own line that “was already being monitored on my request”.

When Mr Baker asked him what his “gripe” with the Department of Justice was, Mr Murray responded it was with “the policies of the DPP’s office”.

“Everyone knew I had an issue with the Department of Justice,” he said, “That was well highlighted in the media”.

“Disclosure is fundamentally flawed within the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions,” he told the court and said: “They waste the court’s time. They waste lawyers’ time. They waste the accused’s time.”

“Helen McEntee is not a target of mine,” he said, “Policies implemented underneath her are.”

Mr Murray said he had an issue with how the DPP’s office is run and that “it needs to be fixed from the inside”.

“Some people might not like Michael Murray,” he told Mr Baker, “This is a threat to the security of the State. This is not a personality contest.”

“At the end of the day it comes down to evidence, and in this case it is miles short of what the State is trying to allege,” he said, “It is ridiculous.”

“The evidence was not clear because I did not make that call. End of story.”

Mr Murray said the “only independent witness” in this case was the Samaritan who received the anonymous call that made the threat.

“She is the only person on this island who talked to that caller and she is the only person’s evidence that matters,” he said, but added that his voice does not match the description of the caller and that there was no technical evidence showing the call from his cell reached the Samaritans branch that received the bomb threat.

In cross-examination, Mr Murray agreed with Seán Gillane SC, prosecuting, that on the night of 7 March 2021, he was alone in his cell and did not leave until the following morning.

He also agreed that he had been aligned with the INLA in the past and that he had a “serious gripe” with the Department of Justice.

Mr Gillane put to Mr Murray that the bomb threat mentioned a court case happening the following day, and that Mr Murray was due to appear in the Criminal Courts of Justice at that time.

Mr Murray said: “That was common knowledge. Everybody knew that.”

Mr Gillane also asked Mr Murray if he believed gardaí “made up” that he made admissions in an unrecorded interview.

Mr Murray again denied making the allegations, but said he was not going to “ridicule the gardaí” and that “they wouldn’t have made it up”.

When Mr Gillane asked Mr Murray about the Criminal Revenge Group, he responded that he was here in relation to a call “alleging to be from the INLA and not from the CRG”.

“I didn’t make the call in relation to the explosives, I’m blue in the face saying that,” Mr Murray said, “I regret ringing the Samaritans on that day because it’s now put me in the witness box on national security.”

The trial continues.

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