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Architect charged over alleged terrorist training camp can attend son's first communion

An architect charged in connection with an alleged terrorist training camp can leave prison to be at his son's first communion, a High Court judge ruled today.

Aidan Coney was granted temporary bail on condition that his local GAA club chairman chaperones him throughout the release period.

Mr Justice Horner also ordered £10,000 in sureties to be lodged and banned the suspect from using a phone.

Coney (34) of Malabhui Road, Carrickmore, Co Tyrone, faces charges of possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life or property, and attending a place used for terrorist training.

He is one of four suspects allegedly connected to the firing of 200 rounds at Formil Wood near Omagh in March last year.

At previous court hearings it was claimed balloons were pinned to trees as targets, with only 15 shell cases recovered due to a deliberate attempt to cleanse the area of evidence.

Part of the prosecution case centres on a five-month surveillance operation against two co-accused.

Coney was seeking compassionate bail to attend the ceremony in Carrickmore tomorrow.

The court heard he abided by all conditions during a previous release for a christening service where Sinn Fein Assembly member Barry McElduff accompanied him.

With the MLA unavailable this time, the GAA club chairman was prepared to fill the role.

A prosecution barrister opposed the application, citing the seriousness of the charges.

But defence counsel Sean Devine rejected any suggestion that Coney would use his son's first communion to commit any offences.

Stressing the importance of the event in the Carrickmore community, he said: "If Mr Coney were in any way to abuse the bail we seek that would have repercussions for him and his family for generations.

"He would never live it down, to put it mildly."

Mr Justice Horner acknowledged the prosecution objections, adding: "Those concerns are heightened because of the continuing dissident republican campaign."

But the judge ruled that conditions could be imposed to manage the risk, based on Coney's compliance during the previous compassionate release.

He ordered him to leave straight after the service and be back in Maghaberry Prison by 2.15pm.

Mr Justice Horner warned that any breach of the conditions may have "disastrous consequences" for others seeking similar release.

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