A UDA chief accused of a cocaine supply conspiracy has had his bail conditions relaxed for a one-night romantic getaway with his fraudster wife.
Clifford ‘Trigger’ Irons was granted permission by a judge to stay at a hotel to celebrate his partner Tanya’s 40th birthday next week.
The 44-year-old Carrickfergus boss of the South East Antrim UDA is charged with being involved in a cocaine supply plot between October and November 2020.
At Belfast Magistrates Court on Wednesday, a defence solicitor said Irons and his wife had booked a night at Belfast’s Clayton hotel for the “milestone” birthday.
“This is a significant birthday and they want to do something special,” he explained, adding that a reservation slip had been handed to the court.
Irons, of Shannagh Avenue in Greenisland, is subject to a 9pm to 7am curfew and must stay at an address approved by the PSNI, among other strict bail terms.
An officer from the National Crime Agency (NCA) objected to the request, telling the court there were fears he may reoffend if the terms were relaxed.
She added that Irons and his wife would be able to celebrate her birthday within the current curfew hours.
His solicitor said if he wanted to commit further offences, there was ample opportunity to do so on bail.
He pointed out Irons had been on bail for some time and had abided by all the conditions, adding that the case was “not likely to see the light of day” until late next year.
The judge ordered that the curfew and registered address conditions be suspended on December 28, to take immediate effect again the next day. The case was listed to be mentioned at the same court again on January 6.
A previous hearing was told that Irons, named by police as a UDA commander, was allegedly covertly recorded talking about supplying cocaine.
He and two other men, Glen Burns and David Weir, were arrested after 1.2kg of the drug was seized in Greenisland in November last year.
It led South East Antrim UDA ‘brigadier’ Gary Fisher to order a temporary halt to cocaine smuggling over fears the NCA was watching and listening to the gang’s every move.
Tanya Irons is no stranger to the Belfast courts, having been given a suspended sentence for fraudulently claiming £32,000 in tax credits.
A probe into the couple’s finances was launched by the NCA after it seized their then home on Castlemara Drive in Carrickfergus.
During a High Court application under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the agency claimed the property was bought through mortgage fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.
The NCA investigation eventually found that Tanya Irons had falsely claimed to be a single parent while living with her husband between 2014 and 2018.
At Belfast Crown Court in November last year, she was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to cheating the public revenue.