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Alleged dissident IRA member who previously absconded refused bail

Six other accused have already been freed on bail but the district judge remarked in this case: "He has previously absconded and gone on the run which was a breach of the court’s trust. That tilts the balance away from granting bail."

Dungannon Court

An alleged high-ranking IRA member accused of terrorism-related offences has been refused bail after a judge found the previous record “suggests a mindset deeply aligned to terrorist causes”.

Damien Joseph McLaughlin, from Dungannon, is one of 10 people charged following a joint MI5/PSNI surveillance operation into alleged terrorist activity.

He is accused of belonging to the IRA, directing and preparing for acts of terrorism,

Offending allegedly occurred between February and July 2020 and the case revolves around covertly recorded meetings held in a County Tyrone house.

The other accused are husband and wife David and Sharon Jordan, from Dungannon, along with Kevin Murphy from Coalisland, Amanda McCabe and Shea Reynolds, from Lurgan, and Patrick McDaid, Joseph Barr and Gary Hayden, from Derry/Londonderry.

Scottish doctor Issam Bassalat (62) is charged with intending or assisting to commit acts of terrorism by attending and addressing an IRA meeting.

He, along with McDaid, Sharon Jordan, McCabe, Hayden and Barr have all since been released on bail.

On Friday, lawyers for McLaughin mounted a similar application at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court which was opposed.

Prosecution counsel explained the defendant is believed to have attended both meetings and while it is accepted other co-accused have been granted bail there are elements which “clearly distinguish him from the others”.

“He faces more charges and has a record for very serious convictions including possessing a firearm and articles for use in terrorism. This related to a 400lb explosive device found in Ardboe which had been dug into a bank”.

In addition, while on bail for different matters but similar terrorist activities, McLaughlin absconded for a time.

The defence said six accused have been released on bail so McLaughlin “cannot be differentiated against … His immediate family are willing to provide a £5,000 surety and accommodation. They would have no qualms in contacting police should he breach any conditions. They have been very clear this is a one-time opportunity. The surety is their life savings which they cannot afford to lose. They are willing to put up the deeds of their home and any car registrations books – anything to secure release.”

In respect of McLaughlin previously absconding while on bail, the defence said: “It is recognised the court has concerns, however, the defendant is now committed to all conditions of whatever is deemed necessary.”

However, District Judge Michael Ranaghan refused bail, stating: “There is a very relevant, serious and concerning record which suggests a mindset deeply aligned to terrorist causes.

“He has previously absconded and gone on the run which was a breach of the court’s trust. That tilts the balance away from granting bail. I find he represents a real risk of flight and further offending and he could not be managed by any conditions imposed.”

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