Category: Archive

In North, 3 acquitted of gunrunning charges

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Maria Brogan and Patricia O’Kane, both of Dunloy in Co. Antrim, and Belfast men Sean Burns and Lawrence Claxton were accused of facilitating the control of terrorist funds. The PSNI case was based on the accused sharing bank accounts with other people, including some relatives.
All of the accused strenuously denied the charges. Brogan had told the PSNI when charged, “I am absolutely not guilty of this offence, which is based on allegations against my brother, who has never been arrested, tried or convicted of any offence of this nature”. Burns had replied to the charges by stating, “The only conspiracy here is a political one”.
Defense lawyers repeatedly complained about the delays in bringing the case to trial. Despite voluminous amounts of prosecution material collated as alleged evidence, Justice Paul Girvan concluded that the case did not meet the standard required for criminal evidence.
Belfast solicitor Peter Madden represented Brogan. He said his client was “very relieved about the result. She constantly asserted her innocence since she first appeared in court and that has now been vindicated”.
Madden had consistently raised concerns about elements of the case against his client, not least the three-year delay in directing that charges would be brought.
Pat Murray, acting for Sean Burns, also expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the case. However Murray insisted that there was still a range of outstanding concerns in relation to the case, including the issue of media leaks.
In an unrelated case, in which media leaks also played a part, a man charged in connection with the Omagh bombing was freed this week after the charge against him was dropped.
In stark contrast to the huge publicity when he was arrested and charged, there were no reporters in court when the charges were withdrawn and the case only came to light the following day.
Anthony Joseph Donegan, 34, from Dundalk, Co. Louth was freed on the instruction of the Public Prosecution Service. Raymond Kitson of the PPS confirmed the charge had been dropped.
“I can tell you the file was received, considered and the test for prosecution was not met.” He said the PPS had studied the file sent to them by the police “very, very carefully” before making the decision.
Donegan was charged in February in connection with the car used to carry the Real IRA bomb that exploded in the County Tyrone town in August 1998 killing 29 people, including the mother of unborn twins.
The charge put to him, when he appeared before Omagh Magistrates’ court, sitting in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, was that on a date unknown between August 11 and 16 1998, he made available to another person a maroon Vauxhall Cavalier car knowing it might be used for terrorism.
Michael Gallagher, whose son died at Omagh, said the news was “very disappointing” and it was “totally unbelievable that we are coming up to the seventh anniversary and there is only one person facing charges.”
He said he had just been thinking he had heard nothing about Donegan for months when the phone rang. “I said to myself that the next thing I would hear about him was that he had been released.
“That’s another one gone. This is what we are up against. I think a full cross-border public inquiry is the only way we are going to get to the truth of what happened.”
Sean Gerard Hoey, aged 35, of Jonesborough, South Armagh, is the only man still in custody charged with the bombing. He was charged in May with the murders of the 29 people killed.

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