Northern Ireland news

John Downey not being held on republican wing

John Downey pictured prior to his extradition to stand trial for a 1972 bomb attack.

Veteran republican John Downey has declined to go into the separated regime in Maghaberry prison, where he is currently on remand charged with the murder of two soldiers.

The 67-year-old was denied bail last week, despite offering cash and property sureties worth nearly £750,000 and a Belfast bail address belonging to an unidentified Sinn Féin councillor.

Refusing bail, District Judge Peter Magill held: "I'm not persuaded at this point there's been a sufficient change in circumstances."

He remanded Downey in custody to appear again in four weeks time.

Mr Downey is facing prosecution for a car bomb attack in 1972 which killed Ulster Defence Regiment members Alfred Johnston and James Eames in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

With an address in Creeslough, Co Donegal, he was detained in October 2018 under a European Arrest Warrant.

He fought a battle against extradition from the Republic before handing himself in to the authorities last month.

The soldiers died in an explosion on the Irvinestown Road in August 1972.

The bomb went off as a truck carrying 13 off-duty soldiers approached, blowing it onto its side.

It is unusual for anyone charged with historic Troubles related offences to be refused bail.

Of all current pending legacy cases Mr Downey is the only suspect currently remanded

A High Court bail application on behalf of the veteran republican is expected to be lodged early next week.

Mr Downey had been due to stand trial in 2014 for the murder of four Royal Household Cavalry men in the 1982, IRA Hyde Park attack.

That case collapsed after it emerged that he received a letter of assurance - a so called On The Run letter - from the British Government stating that he was not wanted for any offences.

Republican prisoners in Maghaberry are held in the separated regime in Roe House.

Mr Downey has not asked to be placed on the wing and is instead being held in a wing of the prison that caters for older inmates.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said they do "not comment on individual prisoners".

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