Northern Ireland

Court told MI5 secretly recorded alleged dissident suspects

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Media captionThe men were arrested on 10 November at a house in Newry, County Down, as Mark Simpson reports

A court in Northern Ireland has been told that MI5 secretly recorded a group of men as they planned attacks on police officers and judges.

The claim was made in Newry Magistrates Court where seven men were charged with a number of terrorist offences.

The men were among 12 arrested on 10 November at a house in Newry, County Down, by police investigating the activities of the Continuity IRA.

All seven were remanded in custody.

A detective told the short hearing that MI5 had used a listening device to record conversations over a period of months during which the men discussed weapons training and funding for terrorist activities.

The officer said "somewhere close to 70 hours" of material gathered in the property in Ardcarn Park over a three-month period from August included a series of meetings involving "leading key figures of a proscribed organisation".

She also answered "correct" when asked by a prosecution lawyer if topics discussed during the meetings included membership of a proscribed organisation; weapons training; funding terrorist activity; plans to commit acts of terrorism; and plans to procure firearms and ammunitions.

The lawyer then asked: "Specific individual police officers were discussed with a view to targeting them?"

The detective sergeant answered: "That is correct."

Asked if "members of the judiciary" were also discussed at the meetings, she again answered in the affirmative.

The lawyer then asked had there also been talk that a dissident member be "taken out" for apparently posting material on the internet.

"That is correct," replied the officer.

Four of the accused are from the Republic of Ireland and three from Northern Ireland.

All have been charged with membership of a proscribed organisation, while six face charges of conspiracy to possess explosives with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life and preparation for acts of terrorism.

Five of the men are also charged with directing terrorism.

Five other men detained in the swoop on the property in Ardcarn Park, Newry, were subsequently released pending police files being sent to prosecutors for assessment.

The five men facing a count of directing terrorism along with the four other charges are Patrick Joseph Blair, 59, from Villas Park, Dundalk; Liam James Hannaway, 44, from White Rise, Dunmurry, County Antrim; Joseph Matthew Lynch, 73, from Beechgrove Avenue, Limerick; Sean O'Neill, 75, from Quinn's Cottages, Limerick; and Colin Patrick Winters, 43, from Ardcarn Park, Newry.

The man facing four charges is John Sheehy, 30, from Clounmacon, Listowel, County Kerry.

Seamus Morgan, 58, from Barcroft Park, Newry, faces the solitary charge of membership of a proscribed organisation.

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