Bomb accused 'acted under duress from dissident'

Image caption,
No-one was injured in the 250lb car bomb attack on the courthouse

A motor mechanic accused of a bomb attack on Newry courthouse was acting under duress from a dissident republican, the High Court has heard.

The claim was made during a bail application by Ciaran Farrell, 51, of Killeaton Park, Dunmurry.

A barrister said his client had no idea the car he supplied was to be used in the attack.

The accused is a brother of Mairead Farrell, shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988. Bail was granted.

Mr Farrell is charged with causing the explosion on 22 February which damaged courthouse gates and surrounding buildings.

Prosecutors said the car bomb went off, in less than the 30 minutes' warning given in two telephone calls said to have come from the Real IRA.

Both alerts were traced to a public phone box in the village of Meigh, County Armagh, with CCTV footage showing a Renault Laguna at the scene at the relevant times, the court heard.

A burned-out car later recovered in Drumintee was confirmed to be the same vehicle.

David McClean, prosecuting, said inquiries revealed the Laguna was given to Mr Farrell to sell following the death of its last registered owner in County Carlow.

It was spotted entering Newry on the day of the bombing, closely followed by a BMW belonging to an associate of the accused, he said.

Checks on Mr Farrell's mobile phone records show he made a return trip from Belfast to Newry and south Armagh, according to the prosecution.

He was arrested in May under the Terrorism Act and claimed during interviews to have sold the car in November or December 2009 to members of the Traveller community for 850 euros, the court was told.

But Mr McClean disclosed that in a statement given to police this week Mr Farrell accepted owning the vehicle at the time of the bombing.

The barrister said: "He states he provided it to a person that he didn't name by bringing it down to that person at Newry on Monday 22 February.

"He states he did this under duress, with no knowledge of the purpose this person wanted the car for."

Opposing bail, Mr McClean claimed there was a risk Mr Farrell could go to the US, or Irish Republic, if released.

The court heard the accused lived in the USA during the 1980s and was married to an American woman.

Eugene Grant QC, defending, said Mr Farrell had established a high reputation as a specialist motor mechanic and engineer, with a business operating in both Belfast and Dublin.

"He is clearly well-known throughout the country as being a complete motorcar and motor sport afficionado," Mr Grant told the court.

Lord Justice Coghlin questioned Mr Farrell's assertion in the statement that at no time did he realise the Laguna would be used for unlawful activity.

Mr Grant replied: "The person that was dealing with him in the way described is extreme, he's known to be dangerous, he is utterly disenchanted with the peace process.

"He would be described as a dissident in the times we live in and a person who would undoubtedly kill to achieve his aims."

"There is a real issue that he was at all times on the relevant day put into a position of fear. He was directed, he was monitored, he was supervised and used."

The judge pointed out that if Mr Farrell's statement was true he had lied his way through police interviews.

But after accepting there were possible issues of duress, he decided to grant bail.

Mr Farrell was further ordered to hand in all travel documents and lodge a £10,000 cash surety.

He was also placed under curfew and told to report to police daily.