North Belfast dissident Damien ‘Dee’ Fennell had his bail conditions varied yesterday to accommodate childcare commitments.
Fennell, a father-of-six, is awaiting trial on terrorist charges arising from a speech he gave during an Easter Rising commemoration in Lurgan in 2015.
Fennell, 35, of Torrens Avenue, is charged with inviting support for the IRA, encouraging acts of terrorism and addressing a meeting to encourage support for the IRA. He is currently the subject of several bail conditions, including signing with police three times a week.
At Belfast Crown Court, Fennell’s barrister explained that his wife is a full-time nurse who works shifts and spoke of the practical difficulties faced by Fennell of signing at a city centre police station three times a week coupled with the responsibility of looking after six children.
The barrister told Judge Geoffrey Miller QC: “In two days’ time, he (Fennell) will have been on bail for two years. He has had his bail varied in the past to allow him to go outside this jurisdiction, without difficulty.”
When counsel for the prosecution was asked for an opinion, he said it was their view there was “still a need to monitor” Fennell. Speaking about “the nature of the comments” which form the crown’s charges against Fennell, crown counsel told the court it was approaching a “sensitive” time of the year.
Revealing the current times of signing were between 4pm and 6pm, the crown barrister suggested widening the signing time from 2pm to 8pm.
After listening to both the crown and defence, Judge Miller granted the variation and reduced the signing to once a week.
When the judge suggested signing each Wednesday, Fennell’s barrister said “Mondays would be better” for his client, who works as a taxi driver.
This request was rejected by Judge Miller, who said Fennell is now required to sign each Wednesday between 2pm and 6pm.