Bail denied to Larne man accused of transporting weapons to meeting with loyalist

Police believe that a man accused of firearms offences transported a haul of weapons to a meeting with high profile loyalist Winston Irvine, a court has heard.

Robin Workman, 51, from the Shore Road in Larne, was denied bail during an appearance at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.

Workman, along with Irvine, 46, from Ballysillan Road in Belfast, were arrested last Wednesday as police were investigating a security alert that led to Irish Government minister Simon Coveney being evacuated from a peace event.

Irvine appeared in court charged with firearm offences on Saturday.

During Workman’s court appearance on Monday, he was charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a handgun without a certificate and possession of ammunition without a certificate.

A PSNI detective inspector told the court that he could connect Workman to the charges.

During the hearing, a defence lawyer asked the officer if it was accurate that during Irvine’s weekend court appearance, his counsel had suggested he was acting as “some form of decommissioning interlocutor”.

The officer said that had been implied by Irvine’s lawyer.

The detective inspector told the court that last Wednesday police observed a red van pull up behind Irvine’s car on Glencairn Street in Belfast.

Following an exchange between the two drivers, Irvine was then seen to open the boot of his car before driving off.

Irvine was arrested in Disraeli Street soon after and officers discovered a number of firearms, magazines and more than 200 rounds of ammunition in a holdall in the boot.

Workman was arrested in Ballymena, Co Antrim, later in the same day.

The detective inspector objected to a defence application for bail.

He said: “The police case is this has the hallmarks of a paramilitary operation.

“The quantity of what is found includes a large range of different calibre ammunition.

“Our concern would be that we have recovered a wide range of ammunition with weapons that they are not compatible with so believe there are other weapons available that this ammunition would marry up with.

“Our case is that the applicant transported them to the meeting with his co-accused to be handed over.

“He therefore has knowledge of the storage locations of other weapons where this arms cache was recovered from.”

A defence lawyer said Workman had denied during three days of police interview that he was the individual who had met Irvine in Belfast.

He added: “This case should be distinguished entirely from his co-accused.

“His co-accused is somewhat of a high-profile individual. He made the case that he will be calling a galaxy of witnesses to attest to his efficacy and his works in the peace process.

“This man is not like that, is a self-employed joiner with no criminal record whatsoever.”

The district judge said he was satisfied that a prima facie case had been established and denied bail.

Workman was remanded in custody to appear in court again on July 1.

The two arrests were made as part of a PSNI investigation into a security alert on March 25 when a peace event, organised by the John and Pat Hume Foundation, was disrupted.

The Houben Centre in the Crumlin Road was evacuated while Mr Coveney was giving an address and a funeral service at nearby Holy Cross Church was disrupted.

Police said the driver of a van was threatened by two gunmen and forced to drive a device, which he believed to be a live bomb, to the church.

The item in the van turned out to be a hoax bomb.