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Carrick man in court over weapons charges is 'heavily connected' to east Antrim UDA, court hears

A Carrick man accused of having two loaded handguns is "heavily connected" to the East Antrim UDA, a detective claimed today.

Giving evidence to Belfast Magistrates' Court that police were objecting to 39-year-old Clifford Irons being freed on bail, the officer further claimed the loaded guns "are linked to an ongoing feud in the Carrick area involving East Antrim UDA" and revealed that a bullet in one of the pistols had been "doctored to cause more impact and more effect."

Appearing in the dock, Irons, from Castlemara Drive, was charged with having two handguns and a quantity of suitable ammunition with intent to endanger life on a date unknown between October 3 and 29 this year.

While the officer told the court he believed he could connect Irons to the charge the defence solicitor contested the connection, claiming that as yet, there was nothing to directly connect Irons to the car where the guns were uncovered.

The officer described how the two loaded firearms, both of which "had ammunition in the chamber," were uncovered hidden in a Vauxhall Vectra car on October 28.

He outlined how the car had been parked outside the home of a relative of Irons' and that new phone evidence allegedly established that a mobile phone associated with Irons had contacted the seller of that Vectra car.

He revealed that Irons had already been questioned about the weapons before being released unconditionally but that now, police had objections to Irons being freed.

"Our main objection is the risk of further offences," the detective said, adding that police belief was that the weapons were linked to the ongoing feud and were "to be used in some form of activity linked to that feud."

"We would be concerned that if granted bail there will be further violence," said the detective further revealing that to date "there have been approximately 63 threat messages served in the Carrick area between May to November, all linked to this ongoing feud."

The officer repeated fears outlined to the Policing Board during the week that "somebody will be hurt or worse, killed as this escalates."

Under cross examination from Irons' solicitor, the officer agreed that four other men, possibly more directly connected to the Vectra, suggested the lawyer, had been questioned but released, two of whom are pending reports to the PPS.

Asked "what's the difference," the detective revealed that during searches of Irons' home cops uncovered a balaclava, a bag similar to that which the guns were wrapped in as well as what police believe is a 'to do' list.

Reading from it, the officer quoted: "get petrol, get hats, hand burners, eyes on house, work out route, get way in, plan to leave."

Despite defence submissions that Irons could be safely released, District Judge Ken Nixon disagreed given the risk of further offences and the risk of witness interference.

Irons was remanded into custody to appear again on December 19 by videolink.

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