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Major player in Clare drugs trade gets 12-year sentence

A “MAJOR PLAYER” and man at the “top” of the Clare drugs trade is this week beginning a 12-year prison sentence, writes Ronan Judge.
At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Brian O’Callaghan said Tony McInerney (25) “is at the top of the pyramid in the good county of Clare and no doubt further afield”.
McInerney, a father of two with a former address at Glenina, Gort Road, Ennis and originally from Dublin, emerged in recent years as a major figure in the Clare drugs trade and became an “operational target” for gardaí, the court heard.
Judge O’Callaghan imposed sentences totalling 14 years for drugs and proceeds of crime offences and suspended the final two years The sentence is one of the longest handed down by the courts in Clare in recent years.
The judge said the drug “pandemic” in Ireland “has long pre-dated Covid”. He said the court has “absolutely no doubt whatsoever” that the activities of the accused have done “untold harm, destruction, pain and suffering, not just on the people of Clare but on society in general”.
The judge made his comments after hearing evidence that McInerney was arrested at a “cocaine factory and distribution centre” in Spancilhill last September.
Detective Garda Paul Heaslip told counsel for the DPP, Lorcan Connolly BL, that members of the Clare grade division’s drug unit backed by the armed support unit raided a property at Kilfilum, Spancilhill at 11.30pm on September 23, 2020.
McInerney was wearing orange gloves and and holding a bag of cocaine, which he threw into a bucket of water, when gardaí entered, the court heard.
The court heard cocaine valued at €50,028.02 was found during the search along with a steel cocaine press, benzocaine mixing agent, gloves, blenders, weighing scales and ziplock bags.
A ‘tick list’ detailing various amounts owed to McInerney for drugs was recovered from a burner phone,
Cash totalling €4,520 was found at the Kilfilum location and a follow up search at a property rented by McInerney at Bruach Na Rinne, Quin Gardens, Quin.
Judge O’Callaghan said, “This was a premeditated, planned operation, a high-end operation, sophisticated. This man has been, presumably, for some time, a major player in the drugs business in the county of Clare.”
The judge praised what he called the “highly efficient” work of the Clare garda divisional drugs unit in stopping the operation.
McInerney pleaded guilty to possession of drugs for sale or supply at a time when the aggregate market value of the drugs amounted to €13,000 or more, contrary to section 15 (A) of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
He also pleaded guilty to possessing €4,520 cash that was the proceeds of crime contrary to section 7 of the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act. McInerney exercised his right to silence in Garda interviews.
Detective Heaslip told the court that is the belief of him and colleagues in the drugs unit that McInerney is a “major player in the drugs trade, the sale and supply of drugs in the Clare division”.
Asked by Mr Connolly where he would place the accused on the spectrum of drug dealing, Detective Heaslip said, “In Clare, I would place Tony McInerney at the very top.”
“He does not work, he is not in receipt of any benefits. He sells and supplies drugs for profit”, Detective Heaslip added.
The detective said McInerney rented properties in Ennis and Quin and had a number of vehicles including a Mercedes and an S-Line Audi.
Defence counsel, Michael Collins SC, asked the court to take into account his client’s guilty plea.
In a letter to the court, McInerney said, “I’m not a bad person but I have made some bad decisions in my life”.
He said he took “full responsibility for his actions”.
Judge O’Callaghan said the court did not accept the accused’s expression of remorse as genuine.
He said “not one word” of the letter “mentioned the hundreds of people of Clare whose lives he had destroyed” as a result of his criminal activity.
The judge noted the evidence of the accused’s “flashy displays of wealth” saying McInerney was not acting under duress or because of addiction.
“He was in it for the money,” he added.
Taking all factors into account, the judge set a headline figure of 14 years for drug dealing, which he reduced to 11 years on account of the guilty plea.
Judge O’Callaghan imposed a consecutive three-year sentence on the proceeds of crime offence.
Judge O’Callaghan said the court was satisfied to impose a consecutive sentence as the proceeds of crime offence was a “standalone distinct offence” that resulted from previous criminal conduct.
The judge suspended the final two years leaving a total prison sentence of 12 years.

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