Maghaberry ‘Real IRA terror note’ accused denies charge

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A Londonderry man has denied bringing a note into Northern Ireland’s top security prison on behalf of the leadership of the Real IRA.

William McDonnell, 28, of Culfdaff Gardens, in the Creggan area of the city, appeared at Belfast Crown Court for an arraignment hearing.

William Martin McDonnell

William Martin McDonnell

He pleaded not guilty to a single charge that on June 5, 2014, during a visit to Maghaberry Prison, he “possessed an article, namely a handwritten note, in circumstances which gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession was for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism”.

Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland had earlier dismissed a further charge against McDonnell of being a member of a proscribed organisation on dates between December 31, 2013 and June 7, 2014.

A prosecution lawyer told the court that he would consult with the Public Prosecution Service on whether to appeal the decision to dismiss the membership charge.

McDonnell was released on continuing bail to await a date to be fixed for his trial.

His co-defendant Thomas Ashe Mellon, 39, of Rathmore Road in Londonderry, will be arraigned on Friday March 13 at Belfast Crown Court on three charges of directing terrorism, membership of a proscribed organisation and possession of an article likely to be of use to terrorism.

No details were given in court yesterday of the nature of the charges against the two defendants.

However, at a previous hearing in July last year, a court heard that a handwritten note on joined up pieces of cigarette paper and wrapped in cling film was found in the possession of McDonnell who was visiting Maghaberry to see an inmate held in the wing occupied by members of the so-called ‘new IRA’.

A police officer told the court that the DNA and handwriting tests on the letter, which was signed ‘T’, provided evidence that Mellon was the author.