Judge refuses bail to teen accused of being behind bomb-making plot

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An alleged dissident republican bomb maker was refused bail yesterday after a judge said he appeared to be “more actively involved” than first believed.

The comments were made by district judge Eamonn King after he heard that the police investigation into 19-year-old Keith McConnan had revealed further evidence allegedly linking him to the manufacture of a “fully-fledged” bomb.

A detective constable had earlier told Newry Magistrates Court that a fingerprint allegedly belonging to McConnan was found on a bag containing a “fully constructed” timer power unit.

He also said that there was evidence indicating he used a pseudonym to buy both the unit and other components, and a search of his home in Dundalk uncovered a large quantity of sugar-based material.

The officer said terror organisations regularly used sugar-based material like glucose along with ground-down fertiliser to make improvised explosive devices.

McConnan, with an address at the Tievecrom Road in Forkhill, faces three charges of possessing explosive substances; namely a timer power unit and ground-down ammonium nitrate with intent to endanger life, and making an explosive substance with intent to endanger life on a date between December 15 and 18 last year.

His girlfriend, 18-year-old Orla O’Hanlon of the same address, faces the same charges after police raided their home just before Christmas.

The officer who made the claims objected to McConnan being released on bail.

Refusing the bail application and remanding McConnan into custody to appear again on May 25, the judge said that the “first impression” he had when the couple had appeared before him was that “these two individuals were used by more sinister people”.

He added however that, given the police claims yesterday, “it would tend to indicate that this particular defendant was more actively involved in this enterprise”.

The police officer claimed that the police had evidence that McConnan had used a fake name to buy the sugar-based material and other items adding that, taking everything together, “we have a fully-fledged home made explosive device”.

Under cross-examination from defence lawyer Kelly Doherty, the officer agreed that McConnan had a clear record and that his girlfriend O’Hannon had been granted High Court bail – but he claimed she would not have been released if the High Court had heard the same information.

He further agreed there was no DNA evidence linking McConnan to any of the materials but told the lawyer that was no surprise “given the extensive amount of latex gloves found”.

The officer said police were objecting to bail on the grounds that McConnan would re-offend, and that he may flee the jurisdiction.