Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Pair to stand trial on dissident charges

A judge has ruled that a Warrenpoint man and his co-accused should stand trial on dissident republican charges.

Carl Reilly, with an address in Belfast and Paul Crawford, from Carrickree Mews in Warrenpoint, are both accused of belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the Irish Republican Army, with Reilly – who is chairman of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) – also accused of directing terrorism.

The men, both aged 41, are alleged to have committed the offences between January 2014 and October 2015.  They are said to involve conversations covertly recorded during a meeting in the Carrickdale Hotel, as part of a surveillance operation mounted by gardai.

The defendants had challenged the strength of their prosecution based on an alleged meeting at the Carrickdale in 2015,  with defence lawyers claiming the charges are based on police supposition and opinion, inconsistent Garda statements and poor quality CCTV images.

Following a lengthy preliminary inquiry process a judge ruled on Friday that the pair are to be returned for Crown Court trial on a date to be fixed.

As many as 27 witnesses were set to be called during the hearing at Belfast Magistrates’ Court to decide whether a prima facie case exists against the men.

Garda surveillance officers remained anonymous during their testimony at the preliminary inquiry, after being granted applications to give evidence behind screens, amid claims by a senior detective that any identification of garda officers would put future operations and lives at risk.

But despite defence attempts to have the charges thrown out, Judge Amanda Brady committed both accused for future trial.

Reilly remains in custody while Crawford is on bail under conditions including a night-time curfew and electronic monitoring.

He is also banned from any attempt to contact his co-accused.