Northern Ireland

Two men jailed for IRA membership

Carl Reilly admitted membership of the IRA when he appeared in court on Friday
Carl Reilly admitted membership of the IRA when he appeared in court on Friday Carl Reilly admitted membership of the IRA when he appeared in court on Friday

Two men have been jailed after they were secretly recorded discussing dissident republican activity in a hotel.

Carl Reilly (47), of Pollard Close off the Springfield Road in west Belfast, was sentenced to 30 months in custody.

Paul Philip Crawford (48), of Carrickree Mews, Warrenpoint, Co Down, was handed an 18 month prison sentence.

Both had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of belonging to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on dates between January 1, 2014 and October 17, 2015.

Reilly also faced a charge of directing terrorism but this was not proceeded with by the prosecution and it was left on the court books in the usual terms.

Passing sentence on Friday, Judge Paul Ramsey KC said: "It is quite clear from a cursory reading of the transcripts that there were discussions and exchanges which strongly supported the charge of belonging to or professing to belong to a proscribed organisation.

"The subject of these recorded discussions represented disquieting, disturbing and twisted views which have simply no place in our society.''

A senior prosection barrister told Belfast Crown Court that on February 17, 2015, the defendants met at the Carrickdale Hotel in Dundalk, Co Louth, which was "subject to covert surveillance'' by An Garda Siochana and their conversations were recorded.

He said that Garda surveillance officers were both inside and outside the hotel and observed Crawford arriving in his own BMW while Reilly arrived in a BMW owned by a man from Belfast.

"At around 8.10 pm, Crawford sat down at a table in the hotel lobby while Reilly sat facing him,'' said the prosecutor. "They sat there until 8.45 pm and then went to Crawford's car which drove out of the hotel and a surveillance team picked it up at Aisling Park, Dundalk.

"Surveillance was also carried out at a house in Oaklands Park of Peter McVeigh and Reilly and Crawford were seen in conversation with McVeigh on a grassy communal area.

"The defendants had referred to McVeigh in their hotel discussions as 'Wee Peter'. Reilly talked about what was going to be 'discussed with the lads tonight' but was told by Crawford only McVeigh would be present.

"Reilly said: 'I'm going to say to McVeigh tonight to stay the path with me, look where we came from and if you stick to the path we can keep going'.''

The court heard McVeigh was convicted and jailed for life for the murder of two RUC constables in 1973 and was released on licence in 1991.

The prosecution counsel said Garda seized CCTV as part of its investigations which corroborated the observations of the surveillance teams.

During one recorded conversation about known dissident republicans, Reilly said: "I am losing men in Belfast. They are going to Maghaberry (prison). The f***ing (Special) Branch are buzzing us.''

On October 16, 2015, PSNI detectives arrested Reilly under section 41 of the Terrorism Act. He was interviewed 14 times and "did not speak during interview, refused to engage'' with police.

Crawford was arrested at his home in Warrenpoint and was interviewed 13 times and did not speak to detectives.

The court heard that in June 2000, Reilly was jailed for five years for making property available for acts of terrorism.

The prosecution counsel told the court that the defendants guilty plea triggered both the dangerous provisions and also the notification requirements under the Counter Terrorism Act.

Desmond Hutton KC said the delay in the case should be taken into account in sentencing as Reilly had offered to plead guilty to the membership charge in June 2020 but that was not accepted by the prosecution and it was over eight years since the commission of the offence.

He told the court that in some of the recorded conversations "there was an element of bravado'' on Reilly's behalf and some conversations referred to matters dating back 20 years ago.

John Larkin KC said Crawford played a lesser role, was more of a "listener'' during the conversations, had no previous terrorist convictions and should receive a lesser sentence.

Judge Ramsey said that he did not believe either defendant posed a danger to the public in the future.

However, the judge said they would be made the subject of the notification requirements under the Counter Terrorism Act for a period of ten years.