FIVE people have been charged with Provisional IRA membership dating back to 1999 but cannot be named because of highly unusual reporting restrictions. The case involving senior republicans has been scheduled for a preliminary enquiry later this month, when it will be decided whether the three men and two women will be returned to the Crown Court for trail.

The defendants, who all deny the offences, face five separate charges relating to Provisional IRA activity. These include belonging to a proscribed organisation, ” namely Provisional Irish Republican Army “, between dates in 1999 and 2000. They are also accused of arranging or assisting in the management of a meeting by a proscribed organisation, namely the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and supporting a proscribed organisation on named dates in 2000. If found guilty the defendants would not be eligible for a reduced sentence under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement because the offences are alleged to have occurred after the 1998 cut-off point. The last person convicted of Provisional IRA membership was Co Tyrone man Gerry McGeough, in February last year, when he was also convicted of attempting to murder part-time UDR member Samuel Brush in June 1981. McGeough had parted ways from Sinn Fein over differences in political direction. The defendants in this latest case are believed to be still part of the mainstream republican movement. The reporting restrictions, which are believed to be virtually unprecedented in a paramilitary case, were granted at Belfast Magistrates Court earlier this month. A spokeswomen for the Office of the Lord Chief Justice said : It would not be appropriate for this office to comment on the individual decision making of independent judges in relation to specific cases. ” Judges at all tiers routinely make reporting restriction orders for a variety of reasons, in a variety of cases, on a case-by-case basis.”




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