Seldom-used law that put loyalist Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair behind bars in 1990s is used to charged 47-year-old man

Henry McDonald
18 May 2012

Anti-terrorist laws used to jail the top loyalist Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair have been used to charge a suspected republican dissident.

The 47-year-old from the Lurgan area of County Armagh will face charges of “directing acts of terrorism’ – a relatively unused piece of legislation that put Adair behind bars for several years in the 1990s.

The suspect, along with two other men aged 41 and 42, will appear at Lisburn magistrates court on Saturday morning. All three men face charges of conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause an explosion, the preparation of terrorist attacks and collecting information of use to terrorism, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said on Friday night.

The PSNI said the charges “are a result of an investigation led by police into dissident republican terrorist activity”.

A PSNI spokeswoman said the police had worked closely with colleagues in MI5 and the Public Prosecution Service to reach a point where charges had been brought.

The arrests in Lurgan centre on a suspected unit of the Continuity IRA, which has a small but active presence in the North Armagh area. The terror group was responsible in March 2009 for murdering the PSNI officer Stephen Carroll.

The “directing acts of terrorism” charge is highly controversial and has been criticised by some civil liberties groups in the past. Under the legislation a suspect can be arrested and held on remand and then face charges on the word of a senior police commander from the rank of superintendent who will tell the court he or she believes the person detained is directing terrorist organisations.

Meanwhile, three men and a woman remain in custody after arrests in Carrickmore, Toome, Omagh and Pomeroy as part of a drive by the security forces against dissident republican terrorist groups opposed to the peace process and power sharing in Northern Ireland.

The detentions in counties Tyrone and Antrim are part of a parallel security operation against a breakaway faction of the Real IRA with a stronghold in the east Tyrone area.