Northern Ireland

Lift court ban says 'IRA victim'

A woman allegedly intimidated into co-operating with an Provisional IRA investigation wants a reporting restriction lifted, a court has heard.

Her request could lead to the lifting of a ban on identifying five people facing charges of IRA membership.

The case involves three men and two women - some of them senior republicans - who are accused of PIRA activity.

All five are charged with belonging to a proscribed organisation on dates stretching back to 1999.

Four of them are accused of arranging, addressing or assisting in the management of a PIRA meeting on named dates in 2000.

The two women and one of the men are also alleged to have used threats or menaces to get another woman to co-operate with an inquiry into claims she made against an IRA volunteer.

Earlier this month a judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court imposed a ban on publishing the names of the five defendants.

The prohibition was put in place to protect the identity of the alleged victim.

However, at a further procedural hearing on Thursday it was revealed that she no longer wants the reporting restrictions.

As the woman sat in the public gallery, a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) lawyer said: "She has asked for that to be lifted. I'm to make that application today."

None of the five accused were present in court.

But a lawyer for one of them, John Finucane, stressed that he was given no prior notice of the application.

'Not done on whim'

Mr Finucane argued that there was more than one alleged victim in the case.

He also told District Judge Mervyn Bates that when he originally sought anonymity orders it was not done "on a whim".

The solicitor said: "Not only was there no objection from the PPS, but the PPS on that date instructed that if I hadn't made the application they would have."

The prosecution lawyer confirmed the move was due to new information only just supplied to her.

Judge Bates said he was not prepared to lift the restrictions at this stage.

Adjourning the case for three weeks, he directed the PPS to put reasons for lifting the ban in writing before the next hearing.

The judge added: "It's up to the prosecution to make the case why it should no longer exist."