A Bettystown man has been jailed for six years at the Special Criminal Court.

Thomas Rooney (52) of Betaghstown, Bettystown, Co Meath was  described by Mr Justice Tony Hunt at the three-judge, non-jury court as a “mid-to-high level member of a serious international criminal organisation”.

He said Rooney was trusted by the gang to transport large sums of cash including a Nike sports bag that contained €289,770.

In May of last year, Rooney’s then partner Catherine Dawson (45), also of Betaghstown and with whom he has two children, was given a fully suspended sentence by the Special Criminal Court for her role in moving the gang’s money.

When gardai asked Rooney if he used Ms Dawson to move the money because her job as a carer meant she was less likely to be stopped during the pandemic lockdown, he replied: “Maybe I’m a coward and wouldn’t do it myself.”

He also told gardai that he was to be paid €1,200 for his part in moving the cash and was in fear for his life when he committed the crime.

Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Hunt noted that the maximum sentence for Rooney would be one of 14 years.

He said he placed his offending at the lower end of the highest range for this type of offence and set a pre-mitigation sentence of ten years.

Having considered Rooney’s early guilty plea, cooperation with Gardai and lack of relevant previous convictions, he reduced the sentence to seven years and removed another year to take into account Rooney’s poor health.