Three alleged dissident republicans were covertly recorded in talks about seeking out security force targets with a high chance of “getting a kill”, the High Court heard on Friday.
The trio also discussed weaponry and explosives available to their organisation and losing two assault rifles in a gun attack on a police convoy in north Belfast the day before, prosecutors claimed.
Details emerged as one of those allegedly at the meeting was refused temporary bail to attend his granddaughter’s baptism.
Alex McCrory, 52, faces charges of conspiring with co-accused Colin Duffy and Henry Fitzsimons to murder members of the security forces and belonging to a proscribed organisation — namely the Irish Republican Army.
He is further charged with attempting to murder police officers, conspiracy to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life, and aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm.
The alleged offences cover a period between January and December last year.
McCrory, of Sliabh Dubh View, Belfast, was arrested along with Duffy, 46, from Forest Glade, Lurgan, and 45-year-old Fitzsimons, of no fixed address, following the shooting incident on the Crumlin Road.
A police Land Rover and two other PSNI vehicles came under gun attack as they travelled towards Twaddell Avenue on December 5.
Two AK47 rifles and 14 spent rounds of ammunition were later recovered along with a hijacked and burnt-out taxi.
“Examination of the vehicles fired upon revealed the police officers driving were extremely fortunate not to be seriously injured or murdered,” a prosecution lawyer said.
She disclosed that McCrory, Duffy and Fitzsimons were arrested on the basis of a secretly recorded meeting in Lurgan the next day.
“This was clearly a leadership or command discussion regarding the IRA, focusing on the attack against police and the loss of two assault rifles,” the barrister contended.
Those present were said to have talked about whether the gunmen would have been recognised, before concluding it was unlikely as they had worn balaclavas.
Criticism was also vented that the rifles had not been cleaned before the attack, the court heard.
“One of the guns jammed during the attack; that was information not made public and only available to people with knowledge of the shooting,” the prosecution lawyer said.
All three men present were allegedly active participants in operational talks which also explored:
• Future attacks and the availability of firearms and ammunition.
• Finance and the organisation’s future direction.
• The amount of weapons and Semtex at their disposal, having worked hard to get it.
• Looking for targets and using AK47s because there was a high percentage of “getting a kill”.
It was claimed that during the meeting McCrory was recorded saying: “I wouldn’t mind doing 15 years... if he’s lying half-dead at least.”
Following their arrests all three accused remained silent during police interviews, the court heard.
Opposing bail, the prosecutor claimed the transcripts showed he was highly involved in the terror organisation and prepared to travel to the Irish Republic to secure weapons.
Defence counsel Conor O’Kane stressed that McCrory only wanted out of prison for a number of hours to attend his granddaughter’s baptism.
He argued that it would be unfair to deny his application when Fitzsimons was temporarily released previously for a holy communion ceremony.
With the accused all allegedly to have been under long-term surveillance, Mr O’Kane claimed similar close monitoring would continue if his client was allowed out of custody.
He added: “The height of the case is in relation to comments made while recorded under RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act).
“Those recordings will be challenged in terms of their admissibility. These are very live issues.”
But refusing the application, Lord Justice Higgins ruled that it did not come “anywhere close” to meeting the normal criteria for compassionate bail.