Northern Ireland

Man on IRA charges had ‘shrine’ with photos of Osama bin Laden and Gaddafi, court told

Derry GAA legend Kieran McKeever is willing to lodge a £10,000 cash surety, court told

Armed and masked men entered a bar linked to St Canice's GAA club in Dungiven on Friday
Armed and masked men entered a bar linked to St Canice's GAA club in Dungiven

A Co Derry man accused of issuing threats against drug dealers in the name of the IRA allegedly kept photos of Colonel Gaddafi and Osama bin Laden, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors claimed Dermot Burke had a “shrine” at his home as part of suspected support for violent republicanism.

Details emerged as the 59-year-old was granted bail over allegations he formed part of a masked and armed group who issued warnings at a series of pubs in Dungiven.

A judge ruled that the man can be released from custody after being informed Derry GAA legend Kieran McKeever is willing to lodge a £10,000 cash surety.

Burke, of Drum Road in Dungiven, denies charges of belonging to a proscribed organisation, possessing a handgun and having an offensive weapon.

Three men wearing balaclavas were said to have gone into four pubs and a GAA club in the town on January 19, declaring their intent to “clean up the bars”.

One of the trio was armed with a gun while the other two brandished metal poles.

“They spent less than 30 seconds in each establishment, stating they were from the IRA and giving patrons verbal warnings about drug activity in the area,” a Crown lawyer submitted.

She claimed the men arrived at the premises in a van used by Burke.

Opposing his application for bail, counsel referred to alleged discoveries in searches at his home.“(There is) what was described as a shrine to republican activity, but also including photographs of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and head of al-Qaeda Osama bin Laden,” she contended.

“There is a concern that this applicant is an unrepentant supporter of violent republican activity.”

But defence barrister Joe Brolly argued that Burke is a vulnerable individual with a learning disability and low IQ.

He argued that the community in Dungiven had rallied around his client, including cash sureties offered by Mr McKeever and another local businessman.

Mr Brolly described the former All-Ireland winner as a man of “exemplary character” and “widely recognised to be one of the greatest footballers to ever play the game”.

Derry's defensive legend Kieran McKeever.
Derry's defensive legend Kieran McKeever s willing to lodge a £10,000 cash surety, the court heard

During the hearing the judge expressed concern at some images from Burke’s home.

One of those referred to the “Derry Brigade” while other signs declared “drug dealers not welcome in our community” and “republican group threatens action”, the court heard.

Mr Justice McAlinden observed: “All of these give a flavour of the leanings of the applicant.

“He’s a man who may have his vulnerabilities and may well be able to be led.

”Based on the cash sureties, however, he granted bail for the defendant to live at an alternative address.

The judge also ordered: “He is excluded from Dungiven.”