MLA to accompany republican prisoner for Christening

Aidan Coney

A MAN facing a trial over an alleged dissident republican firing range near Greencastle has been granted compassionate bail to attend the Christening of his baby daughter this weekend after a Sinn Féin MLA agreed to take him to and from Maghaberry Prison.

During a hearing at Omagh Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, Aidan Coney (34) of Malabhuí Road in Carrickmore was granted 25 minutes plus two hours travelling time to attend the religious ceremony in St Columcille’s Church in the town this Saturday afternoon.

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However among the stringent conditions placed on Coney’s attendance at the ceremony in Carrickmore provides that West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff remains by his side throughout the 145 minutes permitted leave from the prison.

The 34-year-old has been remanded in Maghaberry since May 19 2012 after he was charged alongside his brother Gavin Coney (35) of Gorticashel Road, Greencastle, Sharon Rafferty (37) of Cavana Linn in Pomeroy and Sean Kelly (47) of Duneane Crescent in Toomebridge.

The four are alleged to be among a number of unaffiliated dissident republicans based in the Tyrone and Mid Ulster styling themselves as ‘the IRA’. All are charged with taking part in weapons training at an improvised firing range in Formil Wood on the Gorticashel Road close to Creggan and Greencastle on March 30 2012 and possessing a .22 Walther rifle and ammunition with intent to endanger life and the preparation of terrorist acts.

Rafferty and Kelly are also charged with directing the activities of a terrorist organisation, namely ‘the IRA’. Kelly faces a further charge of collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists.

COMPASSIONATE BAIL

Aidan Coney appeared via video-link from Maghaberry on Tuesday for this third attempt for compassionate bail application to visit his new born daughter.

During the hearing, his legal counsel, Peter Corrigan, submitted a letter from Barry McElduff MLA on Northern Ireland Assembly headed paper, offering to drive Coney from Maghaberry to Carrickmore and back again.

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Strong objections to the application were heard from PSNI detective constable, who claimed there was a likelihood for the 34-year-old to re-offend, stating his belief that Coney belonged to a terror organisation styling itself as the IRA. He added that concern existed over his potential to abscond.

However District Judge Bernie Kelly questioned how realistic it was for the remand prisoner to re-offend during such a short time-frame, suggesting there would be serious repercussions for Mr McElduff and his party if Coney did abscond.

Stating the application was a balancing exercise, Judge Kelly said, “One has to remind oneself that we are dealing with someone who is innocent until proven guilty.”

Allowing the application, she granted a total of two hours and 25 minutes for the ceremony and journey to and from Carrickmore, ordering no stops along the way and for Coney to remain in Mr McElduff’s company the entire time. Two sureties of £2,000 must also be paid and both Coney and the Assembly member are also banned from using mobile phones during the time.

Judge Kelly warned that barring an extreme event, should Coney stray even one second over the allotted time, she will never consider bail again this side of the trial. She also added that in such a case, she will never allow a person of Mr McElduff’s calibre to accompany a prisoner again.