Belfast Telegraph

Jail for the OAP terrorist with an arsenal in his car

By Paul Higgins

A 70-year-old man who "just can't seem to let go of the past" has been jailed for six-and-a-half years for terror offences after police found explosives and guns in his car following a high-speed chase.

"This isn't just a case of a pike in a thatch, that doesn't apply to modern Ireland," the Recorder of Belfast Judge David McFarland told Thomas Joseph Maguire.

The Belfast Crown Court judge heard that Maguire, who was jailed for 20 years in 1975 for having explosives with intent to endanger life, was caught with the items when police stopped his Ford Mondeo after a pursuit on August 2, 2011.

Prosecuting lawyer Kate McKay outlined how police uncovered a coffee jar bomb, component parts for other bombs and a variety of guns, 100 rounds of assorted bullets and suspected shotgun propellant.

Officers had been led "fortuitously" to his home address on Suffolk Drive in west Belfast after his fingerprint was found on the sliding mechanism of a semi-automatic pistol found during searches in Newry in September 2010 when anti-terrorist officers raided a firearms workshop.

Last March 56-year-old Bryan McManus from Aileen Terrace in Newry was also jailed for six-and-a-half years after the engineer admitted that he had been involved in reactivating weaponry for dissident republicans.

McManus had pleaded guilty to possessing eight handguns, a rifle, a gun disguised as a walking stick and a quantity of assorted ammunition.

He pleaded guilty to conspiring with another person not before the court to convert imitation guns into firearms on dates between September 1, 2007 and September 24, 2010. Ms McKay told the court yesterday that during two days of questioning, Maguire had refused to answer but that he later pleaded guilty to a total of seven offences of having the firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life and under suspicious circumstances and having articles for use in terrorism on August 2, 2011.

Maguire had also admitted having the semi-automatic pistol which was found during the Newry searches, also with intent and under suspicious circumstances on dates between September 1, 2007 and September 1, 2010.

Defence QC Frank O'Donoghue revealed how Maguire had access to the weaponry while being involved in a west Belfast museum.

Mr O'Donoghue said it was a "most unusual and striking case, that a man of his old age, if not his dotage, is involving himself in something that's really now beyond his age group and well beyond his capacity".

Belfast Telegraph


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