Forkhill couple facing trial on bomb factory charges

Orla O'Hanlon will stand trial with boyfriend Keith McConnan next month
Orla O'Hanlon will stand trial with boyfriend Keith McConnan next month

A couple are to stand trial next month accused of a running a dissident republican bomb-making factory in south Armagh.

At Belfast Crown Court, Recorder Judge David McFarland set Monday, December 15 as the date for the non-jury Diplock trial of Orla O’Hanlon, 20, of Church Road, Forkhill and boyfriend Keith McConnan.

McConnan, 21, who is on remand in Maghaberry prison, was not present in court while O’Hanlon sat in the public gallery during the brief hearing.

The couple were arrested at a house they shared at Tievecrom Park in Forkhill in December 2013 by the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch.

They are accused of making fertiliser-based explosives and possessing bomb parts and ammunition.

The bomb parts included a mobile phone-operated switch unit.

They are also charged with possessing explosives and a firearm with intent to endanger life and also in suspicious circumstances.

The pair have denied all the charges.

At their first court appearance, a detective told the court that officers found a timer power unit (TPU) and ancillary items for the TPU.

“This would enable a bomb to be placed which could delay the detonation for several days,’’ said the officer.

The detective added a white substance found in a bin was forensically tested and found to be ammonium nitrate which he said is is used for “home-made explosives or HME”.

He said it appeared there had been an attempt at a clear-up operation as similar white powder was found in a vacuum cleaner.

In another bedroom, the court heard, police also found a three-feet tall industrial grinder.

“There was fine powder both inside and outside the grinder. This had the capacity to grind down 20kg of home-made explosives per hour,’’ said the detective.