Donegal man in court after over £1.2m worth of cannabis found in furniture van

A van driver arrived at Belfast Port with more than £1m worth of herbal cannabis stored among boxes of paint, a court heard on Monday.

Police seized the haul after stopping 41-year-old Jonathan Paul McDaid’s vehicle as he got off a ferry from Liverpool on Sunday morning.

McDaid, of St Judes Court in Lifford, Co Donegal, appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court charged with possessing Class B drugs with intent to supply.


Officers from the PSNI’s Paramilitary Crime Task Force and Harbour Police were involved in the joint operation at the ferry terminal.

McDaid was stopped in a Renault Master van belonging to an Armagh-based furniture company just shortly after disembarking.

Once the rear doors were opened there was an immediate, pungent smell of herbal cannabis, according to an investigating detective.

Initial checks established the vehicle was heavily laden with paint and flat-packed furniture.

But police seized the van after finding a large bag of suspect drugs among cardboard boxes behind the driver’s cabin.

Further examinations carried out by a specialist team uncovered 75 kilos of vacuum packed herbal cannabis.

The haul has a total estimated street value of £1.25m. 


McDaid refused to provide the passcode for his mobile phone seized as part of the investigation, the court heard. 

The furniture company’s owners told police he was not officially employed but did some cash-in-hand work.

He had picked up the van in Liverpool on April 4 and travelled to Coventry and London before going to premises in Wigan linked to the firm to collect paint.

No-one else from the company is currently a suspect in the investigation, police confirmed.

Judge Laura Ievers was told McDaid made no comment to all questions put to him in interview, including his name and date of birth, the van’s movements or whether anyone else accompanied him on the trip.

“He was asked if he had not smelt the presence of the cannabis in the rear of the vehicle, considering he had been driving it for at least a day or two,” the detective disclosed.

“Police gave him every opportunity to provide an innocent explanation for the presence of the cannabis in the vehicle, and he failed to do that.”

Bail was opposed amid claims McDaid has no suitable address in Northern Ireland and concerns for his own safety.

“This large amount of herbal cannabis would not normally come into or circulate in Northern Ireland without the involvement of some kind of organised crime group or paramilitary group,” the detective added.

“There have been previous incidents where people who have been released have ended up being punished… for the loss of substantial amounts of drugs.” 

Defence barrister John O’Connor argued that the accused should not be kept in custody just because of the value of the drugs seizure. 

He indicated that McDaid could live with relatives in Strabane who would be able to lodge a cash surety.

Granting bail under strict conditions, Judge Ievers stressed the accused must fully cooperate before any release.

McDaid is due to appear in court again on April 29.

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