Belfast Telegraph

Guns accused loyalist Clifford Irons part of UDA feud, court told

By Paul Higgins

A Carrick man accused of having two loaded handguns is heavily connected to the east Antrim UDA, a court has heard.

A police officer made the claim about Clifford Irons at Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday.

Objecting to the 39-year-old being freed on bail, the officer further claimed the weapons "are linked to an ongoing feud in the Carrick area involving the east Antrim UDA".

He also revealed that a bullet in one of the pistols had been "doctored to cause more impact and more effect".

Irons, from Castlemara Drive, was charged with having two handguns and a quantity of 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, Irons' defence solicitor contested the connection.

He claimed that, as yet, there was nothing to directly connect Irons to the car where the guns were uncovered.

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

He outlined how the car had been parked outside the home of a relative of Irons.

He told the court new phone evidence 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 believed 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, 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 the officer agreed with the suggestion from Irons' solicitor that four other men, possibly more directly connected to the Vectra, had been questioned but released, two of whom are pending reports to the PPS.

The detective revealed that during searches of Irons' home police uncovered a balaclava, a bag similar to that in which the guns were wrapped, 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."

Irons was remanded into custody to appear again on December 19 by video-link.

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