Belfast Telegraph

IRA 'plotted terrorist attacks on Northern Ireland's transport infrastructure', court hears

The men allegedly discussed sniper strikes on high-profile targets

A Translink train
A Translink train

By Alan Erwin

Secret recordings of alleged Continuity IRA terror plot meetings revealed plans to attack Northern Ireland's transport infrastructure, the High Court heard today.

Discussions also explored future sniper strikes on high-profile targets, prosecutors said.

Further details of the covert MI5 operation at a house in Newry, Co Down were disclosed as bail was refused to one of the men accused of attending some of the gatherings.

Terence Marks, 54, denies charges of belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA, and conspiring to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.

The father-of-six's lawyer claimed the recordings were of singing and drink-fuelled bravado.

He also expressed concerns about possible entrapment in the surveillance.

The investigation centres on meetings held by alleged key members of the Continuity IRA's leadership.

The house at Ardcarn Park was raided last November after being bugged for three months.

Twelve men were arrested at that stage, with charges brought against seven of them and the other five released pending reports.

Marks, of Parkhead Crescent in the city, was among a further three men detained the following month.

A total of nine meetings were recorded, with each of the suspects said to have been present on at least one occasion.

According to the prosecution topics discussed included membership of an outlawed organisation, weapons procurement and training, terrorist funding and plans to commit acts of terrorism.

Based on voice analysis Marks is alleged to have been present at three gatherings in September and October.

Among the issues explored at those meetings were: previous operations, using household items for bomb-making, constructing improvised explosive devices and and transporting a small weapon in a loaf of bread.

Opposing bail, prosecution counsel said police are still seeking other suspects.

He contended: "There are clearly very significant steps being taken by this group to prepare for future significant terrorist acts, (including) preparation for sniper attacks on high-profile targets and an attack on the transport infrastructure."

According to the barrister it would involve "a reckless disregard for life if such an attack were to take place".

John Connolly, defending, said Marks strenuously denies any past or present involvement with dissident republican groupings.

Mr Justice Burgess was told the accused is a chronic alcoholic who drinks up to ten cans of beer and as much as a litre of vodka a day.

Mr Connolly stressed that Marks is only alleged to have been present for eight of the 70 hours of surveillance at the house.

He said: "It's clear from the recordings that there's a lot of bravado from individuals, talking about events of the past and gesturing about what to do about the future.

"Within the recordings there's a lot of banter, there's arguments, there's fun, there's light conversation and there's heated debate.

"There's also singing and recounting of some songs."

It was claimed that one of those present can be heard going into "numerous monologues" and inviting others to recall stories.

"There's a concern that there has been a state involvement in almost what is known as entrapment," Mr Connolly said.

He added that the Public Prosecution Service had responded to a request about whether any of those arrested were state agents by saying it was not obliged to answer the question.

Refusing bail, Mr Justice Burgess said he had "grave doubts" any release conditions would be complied with.

The judge also stressed: "These are serious matters impacting on the whole community and in particular various sections, including danger to their lives and serious injury."

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