Northern Ireland news

Man on bail facing dissident republican charges allowed to attend yoga and sea-swim sessions in Republic

Patrick McDaid

A DERRY man on bail facing dissident republican charges is to be allowed to attend yoga and sea-swim sessions in the Republic, a High Court judge ruled today.

Patrick McDaid (52) was granted permission to travel across the border for the mental health counselling programme held at a beach in Buncrana, Co Donegal.

But Mr Justice McAlinden warned that any violation could result in the forfeiture of £50,000 lodged by the accused's cousin, former Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney, to secure his release from custody.

McDaid, of Magowan Park, is among 10 people being prosecuted following a joint MI5/PSNI surveillance operation which targeted the alleged leadership of the New IRA.

He faces charges of membership of the proscribed organisation and preparing for acts of terrorism in connection with meetings in Omagh, Co Tyrone between February and July 2020.

Prosecutors claim covert recordings reveal those in attendance discussed potential bombing campaigns, cyber-attacks and securing the backing of a foreign government hostile to the UK, as well as debating the possible kidnapping of drug dealers to obtain an arsenal of weapons and a £500,000 ransom.

The transcripts allegedly show McDaid is a senior member within the dissident republican grouping, identified as the chair of its Executive, previous courts were told.

But the defence described the meetings as just an "echo chamber" for empty talk about a bygone era of Irish republicanism.

McDaid secured bail last November after publicly disavowing the use of violence for political aims and Mr McCartney staked his own reputation by putting up the £50,000 surety.

The accused returned to court yesterday seeking permission to travel across the border for the sea-water counselling programme.

Defence barrister Joe Brolly confirmed McDaid will inform police of planned sessions and provide vehicle details in advance of any trips.

Opposing the application, prosecution counsel argued that there are open-sea facilities available within Northern Ireland.

However, Mr Justice McAlinden highlighted the benefits of participating in the Co Donegal programme.

"This is not just for the purpose of recreation, this is about engaging in a twice-weekly counselling session," he pointed out.

Safeguarding stipulations were imposed to ease concerns about monitoring McDaid while in the Republic.

Fortnightly updates must be provided to police and the court, setting out activities he has undertaken as part of the counselling programme.

The PSNI will also be able to inform gardai about McDaid's participation and request an unannounced check on his whereabouts.

With those conditions agreed, the judge confirmed: "It is appropriate that this applicant should be given this opportunity to continue this form of therapy.

"Therefore, bail will be varied to allow the applicant to attend these sessions in Buncrana twice weekly."

Topics

Northern Ireland news