Northern Ireland news

Nine men to stand trial over meetings where dissident attacks allegedly planned

A property at Ardcarn Park in Newry was raided in November 2014 following a three-month covert operation

NINE men are to stand trial over secretly recorded meetings where dissident republican attacks were allegedly planned, a judge has ordered.

The defendants face charges linked to an MI5 operation targeting suspected Continuity IRA gatherings at a house in Newry.

The property at Ardcarn Park was raided in November 2014 following a three-month covert operation.

A total of nine meetings were bugged, with most of the accused allegedly present on at least one occasion.

At previous court hearings it was claimed that some of the tapes revealed dissident plots to kill judges, PSNI officers and carry out strikes on Policing Board meetings.

Other conversations focused on potential gun and bomb attacks, funding, training, and even explored how to smuggle a weapon inside a load of bread, according to the prosecution.

Among the defendants are Patrick Blair (62) of Lassara Heights, Warrenpoint; Seamus Morgan (61) from Barcroft Park in Newry; Joseph Lynch (76) of Hazel View in Belfast; Colin Winters (46) from Fairfield Heights in Newry; and Liam Hannaway (47) of White Rise in Dunmurry.

Also accused are John Sheehy (33) from Erskine Street in Newry; Joseph Pearce (47) of Clogharevan Park, Bessbrook; Kevin Heaney (44) from Blackstaff Mews, Springfield Road in Belfast; and Terence Marks (57) of Parkhead Crescent in Newry.

All but Pearce are charged with belonging to a proscribed organisation - he is accused of collecting information likely to be useful to terrorists.

Further charges of preparation of terrorist acts and conspiracy to possess firearms and explosives have been brought against Blair, Lynch, Winters, Hannaway and Sheehy, according to the Courts Service.

At Belfast Magistrates' Court last week defence lawyers tested the strength of the prosecution case.

Evidence obtained from the voice recordings was examined during the hearing.

The Courts Service confirmed yesterday that a judge sitting in the preliminary enquiry returned all nine defendants for trial.

They are due to be arraigned before Belfast Crown Court later this month.

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