Agents identities hidden at trial of RIRA accused

24 October 2009
The Irish News

Thirty five security service agents are to give evidence in the trial of three Co Armagh men arrested after an MI5 sting operation against the Real IRA, a court heard yesterday. As the trio pleaded not guilty to the charges at Belfast Crown Court, a prosecuting lawyer revealed they have applied for a ruling that the agents can give their evidence anonymously, behind screens.

It was also revealed that recordings of 90 hours of bugged conversations will be played at the trial which is expected to last up to three months after its scheduled opening next April. Paul Anthony John McCaugherty (43) from Beech Court in Lurgan is denying a total of seven charges. An earlier court hearing was told that the charges related to what police believe was an international gun smuggling operation.

McCaugherty is charged with conspiring to possess firearms and explosives and using EUR46,000 in Bruges in Belgium and Amsterdam in Holland for the purposes of terrorism. He is also accused of membership of a proscribed organisation described in court as "the Irish republican army". McCaugherty is also charged with entering into an arrangement to make the deeds of a restaurant in Alvor in Portugal available for the purposes of terrorism.

Dermot Declan Gregory (41) aka Michael Dermot, from Concession Road, Crossmaglen faces a similar charge in relation to the restaurant.

Desmond Paul Kearns (44) from Tannaghmore Green in Lurgan is charged with conspiring to possess firearms and explosives.

All the offences are alleged to have happened between May 23 2005 and June 20 2006.

Mr Justice Hart was told by defence lawyers that the papers in the case were "voluminous" and that the taped conversations would take months to transcribe.

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