Bail for terror accused to attend yoga and sea swimming ‘sends wrong message’: Jim Allister

Granting bail to allow a man facing republican terrorism charges to attend yoga classes, and to go sea swimming, in Donegal sends the “wrong message to society,” Jim Allister has said.

TUV leader Jim Allister
TUV leader Jim Allister

The TUV leader also said that the £50,000 surety provided by a former senior Sinn Fein figure is another example of the “paper wall” between dissident and mainstream republicans.

Patrick McDaid, 52, was granted bail at Belfast High Court on Friday after a judge highlighted the benefits of participating in the counselling and well-being programme.

McDaid, of Magowan Park in Londonderry, is among 10 people being prosecuted following a joint MI5/PSNI surveillance operation which targeted the alleged leadership of the so-called New IRA organisation.

He faces charges of membership of the proscribed organisation and preparing for acts of terrorism in connection with meetings in Omagh, Co Tyrone between February and July 2020.

Prosecutors claim covert recordings reveal those in attendance discussed potential bombing campaigns, cyber-attacks and securing the backing of a foreign government hostile to the United Kingdom, as well as debating the possible kidnapping of drug dealers to obtain an arsenal of weapons and a £500,000 ransom.

The transcripts allegedly show McDaid is a senior member within the dissident republican terror grouping, identified as the chair of its Executive, previous courts were told.

But the defence described the meetings as just an “echo chamber” for empty talk about a bygone era of Irish republicanism.

Mr Justice McAlinden warned that any violation of the bail conditions could result in the forfeiture of £50,000 lodged by the accused’s cousin, former Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney, to secure his release from custody.

“That cash surety is now in jeopardy if there is any abuse of the variation that has been granted by the court today,” the judge stressed.

However, Mr Allister said the granting of bail in such circumstances raises questions.

“The public will doubtless be shocked to learn that an alleged terrorist has been granted bail for such frivolous reasons as attending yoga and sea swimming in another jurisdiction,” he said.

“Patrick McDaid faces charges which are most serious and the decision to grant bail sends entirely the wrong message to society.”

Mr Allister added: “The other interesting aspect of this case is, of course, the fact that the bail money is being provided by the accused cousin, former Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney.

“Once again the nature of the paper wall between so-called dissent republicans and the mainstream movement is clear for all to see.”

McDaid secured bail last November after publicly disavowing the use of violence for political aims and Mr McCartney staked his own reputation by putting up the £50,000 surety.

The accused returned to court yesterday seeking permission to travel across the border for the sea-water counselling programme.

Defence barrister Joe Brolly confirmed McDaid will inform police of planned sessions and provide vehicle details in advance of any trips to Donegal.

Opposing the application, prosecution counsel argued that there are open-sea facilities available within Northern Ireland.

However, Mr Justice McAlinden highlighted the benefits of participating in the Co Donegal programme.

“This is not just for the purpose of recreation, this is about engaging in a twice-weekly counselling session,” he pointed out.

Safeguarding stipulations were imposed to ease concerns about monitoring McDaid while in the Republic of Ireland.

Fortnightly updates must be provided to police and the court, setting out activities he has undertaken as part of the counselling programme.

The PSNI will also be able to inform gardai about McDaid’s participation and request an unannounced check on his whereabouts.

With those conditions agreed, the judge confirmed: “It is appropriate that this applicant should be given this opportunity to continue this form of therapy.

“Therefore, bail will be varied to allow the applicant to attend these sessions in Buncrana twice weekly.”