Re-activator of dissident guns jailed

March 25, 2013

A Newry man who reactivated guns for dissident republicans has been jailed for six and a half years.

Bryan Christopher McManus from Aileen Terrace in the city, was ordered to spend half his sentence in jail and the other half on licence parole.

Passing sentence, Belfast Crown Court judge, David McFarland told him he had “made a very bad decision to associate with undesirable elements” and added that, while he accepted that McManus’s life had gone into a “downward spiral,” it was of his own making.

The 56 year old engineer had pleaded guilty to possessing eight firearms, a rifle, component parts of weapons, seven magazines and various ammunition including armour piercing and “dum dum” bullets, all with intent to endanger life.

He conceded that, since 2007, he had been reactivating previously deactivated guns and component parts for firearms on behalf of people he suspected were dissident republicans, connected to the Real IRA.

McManus also pleaded guilty to conspiring to convert imitation guns into firearms between 2007 and 2010, and a further two charges of possessing property for terrorism purposes and providing property for terrorism purposes.

Defence lawyer Philip Irvine revealed that police had alerted McManus to a number of threats on his life and after the last one in 2007 the accused contacted with “certain elements” who might be able to provide him with protection.

He said McManus reactivated a gun given to him by a “Mr X” who then asked him to undertake similar work. The lawyer said he became indebted to the people who had given him the gun and felt caught in a trap as veiled threats had been made against his family. His lawyer went on to say that McManus had been preyed upon by more sinister people who he felt he could not refuse and that he was relieved when he was finally caught.

On Friday Judge McFarland decided the engineer did not pose a risk to the public but placed a 15 year serious crime prevention order against him which allows authorities to investigate his activities.

Speaking after the sentencing, PSNI Detective Superintendent Glenn Wright, from Serious Crime Branch, commended the “courage and professionalism” of his colleagues during the investigation and said their actions had “undoubtedly prevented the commission of serious offences.”