Belfast Telegraph

Secret recordings of Continuity IRA terror plot meetings revealed plans to smuggle weapon inside loaf of bread, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Secret recordings of top-level Continuity IRA terror plot meetings revealed plans to smuggle a weapon inside a loaf of bread, the High Court heard today.

Discussions also explored the recruitment of well-educated young people and identifying shooting 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 seven men facing terrorist charges.

Seamus Morgan, 59, of Barcroft Park in the city, is accused of belonging to a proscribed organisation.

The investigation centres on meetings held by alleged key members of the Continuity IRA's leadership, a judge was told.

The house at Ardcarn Park was raided on November 10 after being bugged for three months. Twelve men were arrested in total, with five of them released pending reports. 

At a previous court hearing it was claimed the tapes had uncovered a dissident plot to kill judges and police officers.

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

Prosecution counsel said topics discussed included:

:: Membership of a proscribed organisation.

:: Weapons training.

:: Terrorist funding.

:: Plans to commit acts of terrorism.

:: Plans to procure and manufacture weapons.

:: Conversations related to conspiracy to murder and possession of firearms and explosives.

:: The structures of the Continuity IRA and recruitment strategies.

Morgan is alleged to have been at three of the meetings in October and November.

At the first of them conversations centred on the inability to do jobs without weapons, punishment attacks and identifying targets for shootings, the court heard.

Those present also allegedly discussed dealing with local youths causing annoyance in the name of the Continuity IRA, with a statement to be issued warning anyone doing so would be "severely punished".

The prosecutor claimed he was then at a second meeting which explored anti-social behaviour, having household items for bomb-making which could be used as evidence against them, recruiting individuals to be kept "under the radar", and repairing guns.

She added that the men also talked about transporting a small weapon in a loaf of bread and getting items to make improvised explosive devices.

At the final meeting discussions focused on financing, "taking on a 15-year-old" and other punishment attacks, and advice on setting up a "tight unit", it was claimed.

According to the barrister they also considered "recruiting young people who are educated and have a driving licence and how they would prefer people who are valuable".

Preliminary results from voice attribution analysis indicates Morgan spoke during the covert recordings, she added.

He was interviewed 32 times over six days without making any admissions, the court heard.

It was also disclosed that as part of the investigation police have carried out searches at seven properties in Northern Ireland, another nine in the Republic of Ireland and four vehicles.

Opposing bail, prosecution counsel said: "There are a number of outstanding suspects in relation to this matter who have not been arrested.

"There's a real concern about the dangers these people pose to society in general in Northern Ireland."

Defence lawyers argued, however, that unlike the other six charged, Morgan only faces a solitary allegation of membership of an outlawed organisation.

They also contended that there was no evidence he was in the room where the recorded conversations took place.

Mr Justice Burgess was told the accused had only gone to the house to visit his long-term friend.

According to the defence, any reference to Continuity IRA activities by Morgan involved him talking in "third party" terms.

"We say its nothing more than a discussion about wider local issues and people masquerading as the Continuity IRA," barrister Kevin Magill said.

But refusing bail, the judge cited the risk of further offences.

He pointed out: "Given the nature of the discussions that have taken place it's clear someone, or this group generally, certainly had that firmly on their radar."

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