Northern Ireland

Bessbrook man Joseph Pearce charged over 'Continuity IRA meeting'

An eighth person has been charged as a result of covert MI5 recordings made at meetings alleged to be of the Continuity IRA in Newry, County Down.

A Newry court heard claims that Joseph Pearce, 45, of Clogharevan Park, Bessbrook, passed on information about security force and prison staff.

It was alleged that recordings of the meeting showed one of those already charged taking a call from Mr Pearce.

He was refused bail.

The court heard that Mr Pearce was invited to attend a meeting at a house in Ardcarn Park, Newry, after a telephone conversation with another of the accused, Patrick Joseph Blair, 59, from Villas Park, Dundalk, County Louth.

The court heard a claim that the recordings showed that Mr Blair told the meeting that Mr Pearce had provided details of four or five police officers and a prison officer.

The information on the prison officer was allegedly used in reconnaissance of his home.

A short time after the phone conversation, Mr Pearce is alleged to have arrived at the house in Newry.

He is alleged to have stayed around an hour, during which it is claimed he continued to offer information to those present, including details of soldiers at Ulster University in Jordanstown, County Antrim, who he said would be "an easy touch".

Refusing bail, the district judge said it was a tragedy that there were still people who believe that political objectives can be changed through violence.

Mr Pearce is due to appear again via video link next month.

Under questioning by a lawyer for the accused, a detective said there was no evidence to suggest that Mr Pearce was a member of any dissident republican organisation.

Police have been granted more time to question two men, aged 41 and 54, who were also arrested on Monday.

It relates to an investigation that led to 12 people being arrested in Ardcarn Park in Newry, on 10 November.

Seven people have since appeared in court charged with terrorism offences.

A prosecuting lawyer said on Wednesday that more arrests are expected.

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