Alleged dissident leader refused bail

Published Thursday, 21 August 2014
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An alleged dissident republican terrorist leader has been refused bail amid fears that he would reoffend.

Alleged dissident leader refused bail
Kevin O'Neill, 58, faces charges relating to terrorism. (© PSNI)

Remanding father-of-three Kevin O'Neill back into custody at Lisburn Magistrates Court on Thursday, District Judge Amanda Henderson said while his criminal record was "extremely limited...I'm satisfied that the prosecution have provided evidence that there would be a risk of reoffending."

O'Neill, 58 and from Coolnasilla Park South in the Andersonstown area of west Belfast, faces two charges of membership of a proscribed organisation and directing the terrorist activities of the IRA on dates between 1 December 2013 and 25 June this year.

Objecting to his release on bail, a prosecuting lawyer outlined how the evidence was based on five covert audio recordings and that O'Neill had been identified on one taken on 16 December last year.

Alleging that O'Neill "appears to have a leadership role with Óglaigh na hÉireann (OnH)," the lawyer claimed O'Neill was heard talking to a co-accused "about punishing a youth for anti-social behaviour."

Further claiming that his voice had been identified by a voice analysis expert, he said O'Neill told Mark Heaney: "I don't care who is in there, go on there and break his legs."

The lawyer also alleged that O'Neill discussed "shooting him in both knees and what justification they could have to put him out of the country."

"Essentially the Crown objection is the risk of further offending based on the fact that we say, all his activity is centred on the group of OnH in north and west Belfast, targeting drug dealers and antisocial behaviour," said the lawyer adding that since 2011, "there have been 33 punishment shootings for this type of behaviour by OnH."

Earlier this week at Belfast High Court, Heaney, 48 and from Lagmore Glen in west Belfast was granted bail after a judge heard that he is the main carer for his mother who suffers from a chronic illness.

He faces charges of IRA membership, conspiring with his co-accused to commit grievous bodily harm on persons unknown, false imprisonment of 'person A,' collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists and three firearms charges including having a gun and silencer with intent on 10 April this year.

Heaney also faces a further charge that between January last year and April, he "authorised the carrying out of an attack on an unknown person to assist the commission of GBH with intent."

The other two defendants, Robert Warnock O'Neill, 37 and from Bingnian Drive and Daniel McClean, 47 and from Hannahglen Heights, both in west Belfast, are also charged with IRA membership on the same dates.

They are also jointly charged with conspiring together and with other persons unknown to inflict grievous bodily harm with intent "on persons unknown" between the same dates.

They also face 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 6 February this year.

O'Neill faces a single count relating to the alleged possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, all alleged to have occurred on dates between 1 December last year and 25 June this year.

An earlier court heard that alleged "middle ranking member" Heaney, Robert O'Neill and McClean were covertly recorded interrogating an alleged drug dealer, who was threatened with being shot as well as discussing other topics including activities, strategies and members of OnH; accessing guns and training members to use them; and shooting people and taking action against other drug dealers.

On Thursday, a detective constable agreed with O'Neill's solicitor Philip Breen that he only faces two charges and that, to date, there is only one covert recording he had allegedly been identified on although the officer added that more evidence could be forthcoming as the expert continues his examinations.

Mr Breen asked rhetorically that at 58 years of age, with a limited record and being a home owner with close ties to the community, "if that doesn't stand him for bail when would it ever?"

Refusing the application, however, District Judge Henderson said the particular personal circumstances that permitted Heaney's release "are not before this court."

Kevin O'Neill and the three co-accused are due back before the court on 15 September.

© UTV News
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