Two to stand trial following Irish police surveillance operation

Court
Court

Two men are to stand trial on dissident republican terror charges following a surveillance operation mounted by Irish police, a court in Belfast has ruled.

Carl Reilly and Paul Crawford, both aged 41, had challenged the strength of a prosecution based on an alleged meeting at a hotel near Dundalk, Co Louth in 2015.

But following a lengthy preliminary inquiry process a judge held they should be returned for Crown Court trial on a date to be fixed.

Reilly, chairman of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) and with an address at Pollard Close in Belfast, is accused of directing terrorism and belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the Irish Republican Army.

Crawford, from Carrickree Mews in Warrenpoint, Co Down, is charged with membership of the same outlawed grouping.

The alleged offences were committed over a period between January 2014 and October 2015.

They are said to involve conversations covertly recorded during a meeting in the Carrickdale Hotel.

Defence lawyers claim the charges are based on police supposition and opinion, inconsistent Garda statements and poor quality CCTV images.

Up to 27 witnesses were to be called during the hearing at Belfast Magistrates’ Court to decide whether a prima facie case exists against the accused.

Garda surveillance officers were allowed to remain anonymous when they testified at the preliminary inquiry.

Applications to give evidence behind screens were granted amid claims by a senior detective that any identification could put future operations and lives at risk.

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.