Belfast Telegraph

Accused freed as he agrees to judge's bail terms

By Chris Kilpatrick

More than 40 years on, the children of Jean McConville sat side-by-side with the family of a former IRA leader accused of involvement in her murder.

Police officers also sat in the public gallery of Belfast High Court during Ivor Bell's bail application yesterday, but there was never any hint of tensions or emotions spilling over.

Outside, around 20 supporters of Bell protested throughout the hearing, some holding placards calling for an end to 'Political Policing', and 'Internment By Remand'.

Those in the court spoke quietly among themselves as a clerk requested prison staff at Maghaberry produce Bell for the hearing.

Some five minutes later the frail-looking pensioner settled into a seat in front of the camera.

White-haired and sporting his distinctive moustache, Bell (77) spoke to confirm his name.

Setting out the charge against him, prosecution counsel David Russell said: "The prosecution case is he counselled those who had her in captivity and in doing so he encouraged her murder."

Opposing bail due to fears he may flee, the prosecution claimed he used an alias to travel to Madrid in the 1980s.

Defence counsel Barry Macdonald QC rejected those concerns, pointing to his extensive medical problems.

There was a rare light moment during proceedings when a judge engaged one of those who had put forward a £10,000 surety on behalf of Bell.

The court was told the man had a string of previous convictions, including motoring offences.

Asked by the judge if he was the man with the four bald tyres, Bell's friend replied "unfortunately so" to ripples of laughter from most of those in the public gallery.

The judge agreed to release the veteran republican on bail, then put the conditions of that bail to Bell.

He added: "If I release you on bail do you promise me you will keep to your bail conditions?"

Bell replied: "You have my word, my lord."

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