A gun recovered during an investigation into suspected dissident republican activity is an antique rifle used in World War One, the High Court heard today.
Lawyers for one of two men charged with having the weapon in suspicious circumstances claimed bullets for it can only be found in museums or among specialist dealers.
Gerard Flannigan, 32, was arrested along with his co-accused after police stopped a car they were in on the Barnfield Road, Lisburn, Co Antrim last Thursday night.
The rifle was found wrapped in bin liners in nearby snow-covered bushes during daylight searches the next morning.
Bail was granted to Flannigan, originally from the Irish Republic but with an address at Cavendish Street, Belfast, on condition that he has no contact with the other suspect, Brian Holmes.
According to police evidence the pair were seen getting out of a Hyundai vehicle close to where the gun was subsequently discovered.
A prosecution barrister said Flannigan appeared to be crawling on his hands and knees around a grass verge.
Following arrest he claimed to be at the scene to go to the toilet.
Questioned about three latex gloves found in his jeans pocket he replied: "Doing some cleaning earlier."
The court was told bin liners recovered from the boot of the car are being examined along with those used to wrap the rifle.
Mr Justice O'Hara was told by the prosecution that the weapon has been initially assessed as being viable.
But defence counsel Joe Brolly contended: "The rifle in question is an antique 1917 Enfield used in World War One.
"It had no magazine and no bullets. You might find them in a museum or with an antique dealer, but you cannot buy them."
Mr Brolly also stressed that Flannigan has not been forensically linked to the gun.
He told the court police appeared to be watching the area before his client and 24-year-old Holmes, of Bingnian Drive, Belfast, were arrested and charged.
Others who were detained separately in another vehicle in the general area were later released, the barrister pointed out.
He confirmed that Flannigan moved to Belfast last year to live with his girlfriend's family.
Granting bail, Mr Justice O'Hara ordered £2,000 to be lodged in cash sureties before the accused is released.
The judge also imposed a night-time curfew and electronic monitoring conditions.