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Seven men jailed for dissident republican activity 'represent a grave danger to community'

A combined 50 terrorist offences form part of the convictions.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

SEVEN MEN HAVE been jailed in Northern Ireland for what police say are a combined 50 terrorist offences, following a 2014 operation targeting dissident republicans.

The men, who are aged between 36 to 79 years and pleaded guilty in January, are named by Belfast Crown Court as Patrick Blair, Seamus Morgan, Joseph Lynch, Liam Hannaway, John Sheehy, Kevin Heaney and Terence Marks.

The most elderly of the men, Joseph Lynch, will be 80 in January and is from Limerick. He has 13 previous convictions in the Republic of Ireland dating between 1955 and 1996, the most serious being common assault.  

An eighth man who had pleaded guilty has since died.  

The offences for which the men were sentenced include membership of a proscribed organisation, preparation of terrorist acts, conspiracy to possess explosives and firearms, collecting information and providing terrorist training. 

In sentencing the defendants, Mr Justice Colton said the contents of the discussions made grim and depressing reading:

“It is the overwhelming wish and the expectation of all right-thinking law abiding citizens in this jurisdiction that the days of shootings, killings and explosions should be confined to the past.”

It is clear from the contents of the discussions of those who were present at the meetings described (to varying degrees) that they were willing to return us to the days which so disfigured our society. Those who seek to do so represent a grave danger to the community and those who commit crimes in furtherance of that objective must expect deterrent sentences.

The convictions relate to a PSNI operation targeting violent dissident republican activity which centred on a house in Ardcarn Park, Newry in 2014.

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Speaking this afternoon, the PSNI’s Head of Serious Crime Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said the operation against the men was carried out over a “prolonged period of time” and involved MI5. 

“The tactics used included the use of covert audio devices which allowed us to gather comprehensive and compelling evidence which successfully defeated the fear inspired walls of silence which groups such as these try to use to frustrate the detection of their activities,” he said. 

Murray said the men were involved in a “multitude of conspiracies” that included robbery and intimidation. 

The plans, which were put forward as evidence, detailed the intention to carry out robberies on businessmen in the community using menaces which ranged through intimidation, destruction of property to kidnap and outright violence.

Police say the the case is still ongoing.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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