Alleged dissident no longer facing directing terror charge

The High Court in Belfast
The High Court in Belfast

An alleged dissident republican is no longer to be charged with directing terrorism, the High Court heard on Friday.

Kevin O’Neill’s lawyer claimed he should now be released on bail because the gravity of the case against him has diminished.

O’Neill is among four Belfast men facing charges related to an investigation into alleged paramilitary offences.

The 59-year-old, of Coolnasilla Park South in the city, had been accused of both IRA membership and directing terrorist activities of the organisation.

The alleged offences, on dates between December 2013 and June 2014, are linked to a covert police surveillance operation.

O’Neill renewed his bid to be released from custody based on the delay in the case.

A judge was told a preliminary enquiry to establish if the defendants have a case to answer is set to take place next week.

But defence counsel Jon Paul Shields contended that it will be early 2016 before any trial gets underway.

He said there could be 150 witnesses in proceedings which may take up to four weeks.

The case against all four defendants relates to voice recordings, the court heard.

According to Mr Shields the arguments for bail have been strengthened by a decision to drop the directing terrorism charge.

“On the previous occasion there was a leadership role (alleged) and the thrust of the Crown case was that he was essentially in charge,” he said.

“That charge no longer appears on the charges for him to be returned to the Crown Court.”

The barrister added: “There’s been a dilution in relation to the charges this applicant now faces.”

Following submissions Mr Justice Maguire adjourned the case until August 11.

At that stage he will hear a full bail application dealing with points about delay and the withdrawal of the directing terrorism allegations.