Terrorism accused bailed for daughter’s communion

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An alleged dissident republican terrorist has been granted compassionate bail to attend his daughter’s first communion.

Despite police objections that he might flee, District Judge Rosie Watters told Lisburn Magistrates’ Court that Robert Warnock O’Neill could attend the religious ceremony this Saturday, but ordered his brother to lodge £30,000 cash as a surety.

West Belfast man O’Neill, 38, from Bingnian Drive, is one of four men charged with membership of a proscribed organisation.

Alleged terrorist leader Kevin O’Neill, 58, from Coolnasilla Park South, faces charges of IRA membership and directing the activities of the proscribed organisation on dates between December 1 2013 and June 25 last year.

Robert O’Neill, Daniel McClean 48, from Hannahglen Heights and Mark Gerard Heaney, 49, from Lagmore Glen, all in west Belfast, are charged with IRA membership on the same dates and jointly charged with conspiring together and with other persons unknown to inflict grievous bodily harm with intent “on persons unknown” between the same dates, along with counts relating to the false imprisonment of ‘person A’ and collecting information “of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism” on February 6 last year.

While Robert O’Neill faces a single count relating to the alleged possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, Heaney faces three firearms charges including having a gun and silencer with intent on April 10 last year and a further charge that between January 2013 and April last year, he “authorised the carrying out of an attack on an unknown person to assist the commission of GBH with intent”.

The charges arise after the men were arrested in west Belfast and Dunmurry by police investigating punishment attacks.

A prosecuting lawyer claimed that covert recordings had taped O’Neill and his co-accused talking about the organisation’s “ideology and strategy but more specifically about the intimidation and extortion of drug dealers”.

The lawyer said one recording, taken on February 6, “is effectively an interrogation of a person [suspected of drug dealing] who is being detained against their will” and is allegedly threatened by O’Neill that “his legs will be blown off with a shotgun” that was allegedly on the premises.

The lawyer said that around this time an advert had appeared in the Andersonstown News paper listing names of alleged drug dealers in west Belfast, adding that coincidentally, the detained person who was being interrogated had been shot and wounded.

O’Neill’s defence solicitor submitted that he could be safely released as his brother had a “significant cash surety” available and that O’Neill was unlikely to breach his conditions, knowing that any action on his part “would have a huge impact on any applications by his co-defendants at any stage down the line”.

Judge Watters granted O’Neill compassionate bail to attend the communion but banned him from drinking and ordered his brother to lodge £30,000 with the court and to return the defendant to prison by 4.30pm.