Northern Ireland

Two in court charged with hoax bomb warnings targeting Sinn Féin MP John Finucane and a party councillor

Belfast Magistrates' Court.
Belfast Magistrates' Court. Belfast Magistrates' Court.

Two men appeared in court on Tuesday charged in connection with hoax warnings about bombs at Sinn Féin representatives’ houses and party offices.

Finton Geraghty (45) is accused of making false claims that explosive devices had been left at the homes of North Belfast MP John Finucane and city councillor Seanna Walsh.

Co-defendant Christopher Maxwell (46) was allegedly behind a bogus alert that a bomb had been left at Connolly House, Sinn Féin’s former headquarters in west Belfast.

Both men are also accused of involvement in a similar hoax at an ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfire site.

They attended Belfast Magistrates’ Court for the first stage in a legal process to determine if they are to stand trial.

Geraghty, of Ivy Hill in Lisburn, is charged with two counts of communicating false information causing belief of an explosion.

It is alleged that he contacted a priest on July 1, 2019 with the intention of inducing a bogus belief that bombs were present at the homes of Mr Finucane and Mr Walsh.

He is also accused of false communication to a PSNI operator ten days later that an explosive device was at Avoniel Leisure Centre in east Belfast.

Maxwell, of Blackstaff Mews in the city, faces two counts of communicating false information causing belief of an explosion and a further charge of placing an article causing a bomb hoax.

The allegations against him relate to the incident at the leisure centre on July 11, 2019 and another fake warning the following year.

Maxwell communicated bogus information to a member of Sinn Féin’s staff that a bomb had been left at Connolly House and placed a hoax article at the party offices on August 9, 2020, according to the charges.

A preliminary enquiry into the case against both defendants was put on hold amid ongoing efforts to obtain more information on a report from a voice expert.

Geraghty’s solicitor, Mark Austin, told the court he is still waiting on the details requested from the prosecution earlier this month.

Mr Austin also indicated that once the information is obtained he may make an application to argue that his client has no case to answer.

District Judge Steven Keown adjourned proceedings for four weeks.