Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Woman acquitted of bomb-making charges

A Forkhill woman accused of involvement in a dissident republican bomb-making factory walked free from Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday, having been acquitted of all the charges against her.

Orla O’Hanlon (20), along with her boyfriend Keith McConnon, had been charged with a string of offences relating to the discovery of items linked to bomb-making at the house they shared on Tievecrom Road.

The pair were arrested in December 2013 when their home was searched by police.  A number of items were found during the search including an industrial grinder, a complete Timer Power Unit and a quantity of crushed ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

They stood trial in December of last year and Judge Sandra Crawford, who presided over the ‘Diplock’ non-jury trial, delivered her judgment on Wednesday.

While O’Hanlon was acquitted of the ten charges against her, her 21-year-old partner was convicted on two of the nine charges against him.

Charges of making and possessing explosives with intent to endanger life were dropped against the couple at the end of their trial.  However, charges of making and possessing explosives in suspicious circumstances, preparation of terrorist acts by possessing items to construct an explosive device, and possessing articles for use in terrorism remained in force.

McConnan – originally from Kilcurry, Dundalk – had previously admitted possessing the grinder but claimed he was acting under duress as he was under threat from a dissident republican linked to the Omagh bombing.  He said he was also given a black bin liner containing a substance he knew to be fertiliser but deliberately sabotaged efforts to make a bomb, damaging the grinder and adding oats to the mix.

While O’Hanlon was freed, McConnan was found guilty of two charges of possessing items in suspicious circumstances and remanded back into custody.  His defense team requested he be released on bail pending sentencing next month, however, at a court hearing on Friday, the application was refused.

Following her release, Ms O’Hanlon’s solicitor said it was “a very difficult time” for his client who had maintained her innocence from the outset.

“She is glad to finally put this case behind her and looks forward to moving on with her life,” he said.