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Judge's fury over delays in dissident terror case

By Paul Higgins

A Judge has directed heavy criticism at defence lawyers in a case against an alleged Continuity IRA cell.

District Judge Eamon King yesterday told Newry Magistrates Court, where the case against 10 men was adjourned again, he wanted to see progress as a matter of urgency.

He said the case had been before the court "for some time", explaining that because defence lawyers previously branded delays disgraceful, he set deadlines for the prosecution.

Once those deadlines were met, the prosecution sought to fix a date for a preliminary enquiry, but on each occasion the court was "inconvenienced because certain defence solicitors representing certain clients have taken the view they want a preliminary investigation (a different mechanism)."

Judge King added it was "ironic" that defence solicitors previously criticised the Public Prosecution Service's delays, yet "right now the case can't be advanced because defence solicitors haven't done what they said they were going to do".

The 10 men were charged with offences arising from months of MI5 covert recordings of meetings at the Ardcarn Park home of defendant Colin Winters (44), where, according to the Crown, tapes revealed dissident plans for attacks on transport infrastructure and for shootings by snipers.

Five men facing a count of directing terrorism along with four other charges including IRA membership and preparing terrorist acts are: Winters; Patrick Joseph Blair (59), from Villas Park, Dundalk; Liam James Hannaway (45), from White Rise, Dunmurry; Joseph Matthew Lynch (74), from Beechgrove Avenue, Limerick, and Sean O'Neill (76), from Quinn's Cottages, Limerick.

Judge King heard that of the 10 defendants, five were happy to proceed to the Crown Court by way of preliminary enquiry, while the other five want to test the evidence in a preliminary investigation.

The preliminary investigation hearing was set for January 4, and the preliminary enquiry hearing for January 25.

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