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Prosecutors fail in bid to overturn bail granted to four accused over CIRA terror plot meetings

Detectives from PSNI Serious Crime Branch during search at Ardcarn Park, Newry. Picture: newraypics.com.....

PROSECUTORS failed yesterday in a High Court bid to overturn the granting of bail to four men accused of being at secretly recorded Continuity IRA terror plot meetings.

Appeals were mounted based on the alleged central roles Patrick Blair, Liam Hannaway, Joseph Lynch and Colin Winters played in the gatherings covertly recorded by MI5.

But Mr Justice Colton rejected the challenge amid concerns about the expected delay in the case reaching trial.

A total of 10 men have been charged following surveillance carried out at 44-year-old Winters' home at Ardcarn Park in Newry, Co Down.

The house was raided last November following a three-month bugging operation.

Each of the suspects was allegedly present on at least one occasion.

Prosecutors claim the tapes revealed plans for attacks on Northern Ireland's transport infrastructure and future sniper strikes on high-profile targets.

Other topics allegedly discussed included membership of an outlawed organisation and weapons procurement and training.

A voice analysis expert has studied the tapes as part of the prosecution case.

Charges of directing terrorism, IRA membership, conspiring to possess explosives, firearms and ammunition and preparing terrorist acts have been brought against Winters; 59-year-old Blair, from Villas Park, Dundalk; Hannaway (45) of White Rise in Dunmurry, Co Antrim; and 74-year-old Lynch, from Beach Grove Avenue in Limerick.

They had been granted bail at Newry Magistrates' Court on Wednesday but the Public Prosecution Service attempted to have their release revoked, claiming they could re-offend or flee.

The barrister claimed Blair, Hannaway, Lynch and Winters were at the centre of the plot.

But defence counsel argued they should all be released because a trial is not expected to get underway before autumn next year.

Ruling on the prosecution challenge, Mr Justice Colton accepted there was a risk of re-offending but refused the appeal citing the need for consistency and the likely delay in the case.

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