Recordings 'chilling expression of terrorist intent'

The exterior of Laganside Courts sign
The case was heard at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday [BBC]

The prosecution in the case of ten people facing terrorism charges linked to the New IRA says secretly recorded conversations were a "chilling expression of terrorist intent".

He was responding to a claim be a defence lawyer that the recordings made during a major undercover surveillance operation by MI5 and police amounted to nothing more than “republican pub talk”.

The case arises from a major undercover surveillance operation by MI5 and police, called Operation Arbacia, into the activities of alleged violent dissident republicans.

As part of the operation, security forces recorded two meetings at properties in County Tyrone in February and July 2020, as well as one in Edinburgh.

Lawyers for nine of the accused have applied to have the case against their clients dismissed.

The charges include directing a terrorist organisation, belonging to a proscribed organisation, preparing terrorist acts, conspiring to direct terrorism and possessing articles for use in terrorism.

The ten defendants

Jospeh Patrick Barr, 36, Cecilias Walk, Prehen Park, Londonderry

Issam Bassalat, 66, Telford Road, Edinburgh

Amanda Duffy, 53, Aylesbury Gardens, Lurgan

Gary Jospeh Hayden, 52, Tyrconnell Street, Londonderry

David Jordan, 52, Castlecaulfield Road, Dungannon

Sharon Jordan, 49, Cappagh Road, Dungannon

Patrick John McDaid, 54, HMP Maghaberry

Damien Joseph McLaughlin, 47, Kilmascally Road, Dungannon

Kevin Barry Murphy, 53, Altowen Park, Coalisland

Shea Reynolds, 30, Belvedere Manor, Lurgan

Clandestine arrangements 'blindingly obvious'

During a hearing at Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday defence barrister Joe Brolly branded the conversations at the meetings as "republican pub talk" and “pie in the sky waffle”.

On the hearing's second day, those claims were rejected by a prosecution barrister.

He described the topics picked up on the secret recordings as "chilling expressions of terrorist intent".

While the case relied on circumstantial evidence, he argued that the secretly recorded meetings were not social gatherings.

He said the “clandestine arrangements” and searches to ensure no one had a mobile phone would have been “blindingly obvious” to those present.

He alleged that the audio and video evidence captured “meetings of senior members of the IRA discussing and planning IRA business and strategy”.

Judge to listen to recordings

The prosecutor said topics discussed by those present included: "undercar booby-trap bombs"; "lost weapons"; "sending volunteers to a live war in Syria"; "Ireland coming down with weapons"; "touts in Derry" and "looking for Semtex".

He added that someone at the meeting was recorded saying “everybody knows the army set Saoradh up, it's an army project”.

A Saoradh document was also described on the recording as having been “sanitised”, but that it was an “army document” and part of a “two-pronged strategy”.

The prosecutor told the judge: "If that is characterised as Republican pub chat, a jury would be perfectly entitled to reject that suggestion and find that it is a chilling expression of terrorist intent."

The judge, Mr Justice Fowler, said he would listen to and view the secret recordings and said the court will take some time to consider the defence application to dismiss the charges.