An Irish soldier has blamed a malaria drug for leading to a change in his personality before he was caught with explosives at a Co Donegal flat.

Mark Cassidy leaving court today. Pic copyright of Northwest News pix.

Mark Cassidy leaving court today. Pic copyright of Northwest News pix.

Mark Cassidy appeared before Letterkenny Circuit Court today charged with possessing explosive substances.

The court heard that on February 16th, 2014, Gardai had received confidential information to say there was explosive substances at a flat above a petrol station in Burnfoot.

Surveillance was carried out and on February 17 and Gardai entered the premises.

Inside the premises in a press in a common area Gardai found a black bag containing a viable pipe bomb.

The area was sealed off and Army Bomb Disposal Experts were rushed to the scene.

A further search discovered a large quantity of assorted shotgun cartridges in the attic of a flat occupied by Cassidy, 29.

Cassidy, with an address at Grianan Vale, Ballyderowen, Burnfoot, was interviewed on six occasions by Garda and admitting having the pipebomb and the shotgun cartridges in his possession.

Detective Sgt Mick Carroll said they still had no information as to what the explosive devices were going to be used for.

A bag containing overalls and balaclavas was also found in the flat but there was no indication as to what they were being used for.

Barrister for Cassidy, Peter Nolan, said his client had ben an exemplary soldier who had served overseas in Chad and was based at Finner Camp in Donegal when this incident happened.

Mr Nolan suggested there was a connection between his client taking the drug Lariam for Malaria while serving overseas and his change in personality.

He referred to the US army banning the drug as a result of concerns over its affect on soldiers.

He added there was simply no reason why a man with no record of being involved in subversive activity would suddenly do so.

Mr Nolan also said that the suicide of his brother in Derry in 2009 and the death of his mother in 2009 had had a profound affect on him.

It was also given in evidence in court that Cassidy, who is originally from the Foyle Road in Derry, was arrested by the PSNI but never charged with any offence.

Detective Carroll also said that Cassidy had no previous convictions for any offence on ether side of the border.

Judge Matthew Deery this was a very serious incident especially when the explosives were found in an apartment above a busy supermarket and petrol station.

“The reasons as to why they were stored are not explained but it seems to me that while he has no previous convictions, it is a serious matter,” he said.

He sentenced Cassidy to three years on each charge and ordered them to run concurrently.

He backdated the sentence to January 17th when Cassidy was first put placed in custody at Castlerea Prison.


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