Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Nine CIRA accused to face trial in MI5 secret recordings case

Nine men facing a string of terrorist-related charges arising from a MI5 secret recording operation in Newry in 2014 are to stand trial in Belfast in February next year.

All nine defendants denied the charges put to them when they appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday last. The terrorist charges – including membership of a proscribed organisation and conspiracy to possess firearms – are linked to a major police raid on a suspected dissident republican meeting place in Ardcarn Park in Newry in 2014, following a secret recording operation by M15.  Twelve men were detained in the operation and over 50 PSNI detectives were involved in the long-running investigation with 15 officers wading through vast amounts of audio recordings.

The court had previously heard that the secret tapes allegedly revealed suspected dissidents discussing topics which included weapons training, funding, plans to commit acts of terrorism, the procurement of firearms, recruitment strategies and plots to kill judges and police officers.

The local men returning for trial next year are 62 year old Patrick Joseph Blair from Lassara Heights in Warrenpoint, who has been charged with 15 offences from providing training in explosives and membership of a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA, to conspiracy to possessing explosives.

Seamus Morgan (62) from Barcroft Park in Newry, faces a single charge of IRA membership between August and November, 2014;  47 year old Colin Patrick Winters from Ardcarn Park in Newry faces nine charges, including providing a property for the purposes of terrorism, receiving instruction or training in the making or use of explosives for terrorism, and conspiracy to possess explosives; John Sheeny (33) from Erskine Street in Newry,  has been charged with six offences, including receiving training in the making or use of explosives for terrorism, IRA membership, and attending a place used for terrorist training;   48 year old Joseph Pearce from Clogharevan Park in Bessbrook, is facing two counts of collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists, whilst Terence Marks (57) from Parkhead Crescent in Newry, faces two counts, namely IRA membership between August and November 2014, and receiving terrorist training in October 2014.

The remaining men, from separate addresses in Belfast and Dunmurry are also set to stand trial. 77 year old, Joseph Matthew Lynch, from Hazel View in Belfast, has been charged with 12 offences, including IRA membership, engaging in the preparation of terrorist acts by attending a meeting at Ardcarn Park, and conspiring to possess firearms and ammunition.

Liam Hannaway (48) from White Rise in Dunmurry, is being tried on 13 offences, including providing instruction or training in the making of an improvised explosive device to others, collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists, and conspiring to possess explosives with intent.  Forty four  year old Kevin John Paul Heaney of Blackstaff Mews in Belfast has been charged with belonging to the IRA between May 2013 and November 2014.

After each of the nine accused entered ‘not guilty’ pleas to all charges, Mr Justice Colton set a trial date of February 4 2019, with the trial expected to last eight weeks.  All nine men were released on continuing bail.