A man described by a prosecuting barrister as a “bomb maker for the New IRA” has been granted bail at Londonderry Magistrates’ Court.
Kieran George McCool (53), from Ballymagowan Gardens in the Creggan area of the city, has been charged with rioting, throwing a petrol bomb and the common assault of a community worker on April 18, 2019.
Journalist Lyra McKee was killed by the New IRA on that date after a gunman opened fire at police Land Rovers at the junction of Fanad Drive and Central Drive. She had been observing rioting.
McCool was previously charged in connection with an explosive device found outside the home of a part-time PSNI officer in Dungiven earlier this year.
Public Prosecution Service (PPS) barrister Robin Steer described McCool as a “bomb maker for the New IRA” who is linked to a series of bomb-related offences dating back to 2015.
Mr Steer said there was also DNA evidence linking the defendant to explosive traces found on a pair of gloves and inside a car three years ago.
The prosecutor said among the defendant's previous convictions were those for possessing stun guns which "had been converted into cameras”.
At Monday’s hearing, defence barrister Joe Brolly told the court that his client was granted bail for those alleged offences and it is “unclear what is happening with them”.
He added that a High Court judge expressed “incredulity” that it took six years to charge him in relation to one case.
Mr Brolly said the PPS is not an arm of the PSNI’s Terrorism Investigation Unit (TIU) and described the case before the court as “an affront to justice”.
He explained that the PPS has been in possession of the evidence for two years.
Defence counsel said all of the other people charged with offences linked to Ms McKee's death, including the three men charged with her murder, had been granted court bail.
He submitted that McCool can be seen on MTV cameras – presenter Reggie Yates was filming a documentary on the night – in conversation with other outside his house in Ballymagowan.
At another point in the footage, Mr Brolly said, McCool can be seen exchanging words with a community worker and there is a “slight push” before he walks home. He was unmasked and takes no part in the riot, the defence barrister added.
He argued that “no conceivable distinction” could be made between McCool and the other defendants who have been granted bail.
Deputy District Judge Liam McStay agreed that it would be “unconscionable” to withhold bail from the defendant as there is “no evidential difference” between him and his co-accused.
Mr Steer asked for the defendant to be banned from parts of the Creggan area where he lives to control his movements, a point that was contested by the defence.
The PPS representative asked Mr Brolly to “moderate his comments” when the defence barrister said “the police would have him tied up in his house if possible”.
The judge was not satisfied that condition was justified. McCool was released on his own bail of £500 with two sureties of £1,000.
As part of his bail conditions the defendant will have a 9pm-7am curfew, will be electronically tagged, was ordered not to apply for a passport, was prohibited from leaving Northern Ireland and must have no contact with any co-accused.
The case was adjourned to a court sitting on October 28.