Real IRA suspects’ charges dropped

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  1. Real IRA suspects’ charges dropped
    By Barry McCaffrey

    CHARGES against four Real IRA bombing suspects were dropped last night after solicitors threatened to expose an alleged security force mole within the group.

    Liam Lyness (22) of Fisherwick Crescent, Christopher Smiley (22) of Dunclug Park, Pearse O’Neill (22) of Deramore Crescent and Simone Sloan (24) of Fisherwick Gardens, all in Ballymena, Co Antrim, had been due to stand trial on charges of possession of explosives and Real IRA membership.

    The four had been arrested in February 2005 at a house in Fisherwick Place in Ballymena, where police found three incendiary devices.

    It was claimed that two of the defendants, Mr Lyness and Mr Smiley, had been found with incendiary devices hidden down their trousers when police raided the house.

    A number of the accused shouted republican slogans when they appeared in court days later.

    The four were alleged to have been part of a Real IRA bombing unit that had caused tens of millions of pounds in damage in a fire-bomb campaign against commercial properties across the north.

    However, difficulties arose in the prosecution case when defence solicitors sought disclosure of sensitive intelligence material that threatened to expose an alleged security force agent at the heart of the Real IRA.

    Defence solicitors demand-ed access to confidential security force documents, which the lawyers said would expose the prominent dissident republican Paddy Murray as a security force agent.

    Mr Lyness said the defendants thought they were buying counterfeit adult videos from Mr Murray and had not been aware that the boxes had contained incendiary devices.

    Despite Mr Murray not being charged with the Fisherwick Place find, prosecution barristers took the highly unusual move of seeking a public interest immunity certificate to prevent his alleged role as an informer being revealed in court.

    Mr Murray went missing from his Dungiven home last November after coming under suspicion among the Real IRA of being an informer.

    He later denied being a security force agent.

    However, defence solicitors were unexpectedly called to Public Prosecution Service headquarters last night and told all charges against their clients were being dropped.

    The charges will officially be withdrawn at Belfast Crown Court on Monday.

    No-one from the Public Prosecution Service was available for comment.

    Defence solicitor Peter Corrigan last night demanded a public inquiry into the events surrounding the Fisherwick Place arrests.

    “This is a very serious case of a security force agent being allowed to act as an agent provocateur to create sectarian violence,” he said.

    “These are very serious charges that a security force agent was actively encouraging others to take part in a bombing campaign.

    “I want a public inquiry to investigate why a security force agent appears to have been deliberately acting to destabilise the peace process which they are supposed to be protecting.”