Belfast Telegraph

Jail drug worker caged for smuggling dissident note

By Sean O'Driscoll

A former Sinn Fein election candidate and leader of Provisional IRA prisoners in Portlaoise prison has been jailed for 16 months for smuggling a dissident IRA message out of the same jail.

Brian Kenna (56), of Crumlin Park in Dublin, had been employed by the Republic's health ministry as a drugs counsellor.

He was described in Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht as an "anti-drugs activist" in Dublin.

Earlier this month he was found to be a member of the New IRA after he was caught red-handed smuggling a note from the terror group's prison leadership to its northern commanders.

On the day of his arrest he was using Christmas cards issued by dissident prisoners as a front for smuggling out a New IRA communique. Garda said it had confidential information that Kenna was being used as the conduit between the dissident group's leadership and its prisoners in the Republic.

In 1995 Kenna was spokesman for Provo prisoners when he and 11 others were released from Portlaoise as part of the peace process.

He told waiting reporters that the release of the 12 was "a recognition of the contribution the republican movement is making to the peace process", but said the response by the British Government to the IRA's peace strategy "was less than what one would have hoped for".

At the time Kenna was the officer commanding Provisional prisoners in the jail.

His release was warmly welcomed by Pat Doherty, the Sinn Fein vice president and later an MP.

In 1999 Kenna ran unsuccessfully for Sinn Fein for a seat on Dublin City Council, and was quoted frequently in An Phoblacht as an "anti-drugs activist" in the west of the city.

He later joined the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association, which supports New IRA inmates and which was banned in the United States as a front for terrorism.

Padraig Boyce, head of the Garda special detective unit, told Kenna's trial that he set up an operation to search Kenna as soon as he was finished visiting dissident inmates in November 2015.

Kenna dropped a communique to the ground but it was quickly recovered.

In it the leader of the New IRA prisoners in Portlaoise was advising the northern leadership that he had debriefed three members who were sent to Portlaoise on remand after they were arrested on weapons charges.

He advised the leadership that the men had acted properly when arrested and hadn't revealed anything to Garda.

Sentencing Kenna yesterday, Mr Justice Anthony Hunt said he was "a lucky man" that the note did not contain anything more serious, but added that the accused behaved in a "reckless fashion" as to the contents of the note.

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