Belfast Telegraph

MI5 secretly recorded dissident chiefs plotting to murder police officers and judges, court hears

By Deborah McAleese

A major anti-terrorism operation against the Continuity IRA has uncovered a plot to kill named police officers and judges, a court has heard.

Bugs planted by MI5 at a house in Newry, which was last week raided by anti-terrorism police, allegedly recorded "leading key figures" of the dissident republican terror group as they discussed potential targets. A prosecutor revealed that 70 hours of audio was recorded by MI5's listening devices over three months.

Seven men yesterday appeared before Newry Magistrates Court charged with a series of terrorist offences. The men, aged between 30 and 75, were arrested last week after officers swooped on the house in Newry's Ardcarn Park.

Five of the men, who were squeezed into the small dock at the heavily guarded courthouse, were charged with directing terrorism, membership of a proscribed organisation, conspiracy to possess explosives with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life and preparation for acts of terrorism.

They were Patrick Joseph Blair (59), from Villas One, Muirhevnamor, Dundalk; Liam James Hannaway (44), from White Rise, Dunmurry; Joseph Matthew Lynch (73), Beechgrove Avenue, Limerick; Sean O'Neill (75), from Quinns Cottages, Limerick, and Colin Patrick Winters (43), from Ardcarn Park, Newry.

John Sheehy (30), from Listowel, Co Kerry, was charged with membership of a proscribed organisation, conspiracy to possess explosives with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to endanger life and preparation for acts of terrorism.

Newry man Seamus Morgan (58), from Barcroft Park, faced one charge of membership of a proscribed organisation. The court was told that MI5 had arranged for devices to be placed inside the Ardcarn Park house.

From August 12 until November 10, meetings were recorded at which the seven defendants were present, a prosecution lawyer told the court. During them, details of specific police officers were discussed "with a view to be targeted".

Potential attacks against members of the judiciary were also discussed, along with weapons training, funding for terrorist activity and plans to get weapons, the prosecution lawyer added.

A PSNI detective involved in the investigation described the suspects as "leading key figures of a proscribed organisation". She said she believed she could connect the men with the charges.

Asked if they understood the charges, none of the accused responded. None applied for bail, although Morgan's lawyer said he would do so next week. The others were remanded in custody to appear via video link in four weeks.

Five other men arrested during the Newry operation have been released pending police files being sent to prosecutors for assessment.

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