Dee Fennell gets bail variation for holiday

Prominent north Belfast dissident republican Dee Fennell - who is currently awaiting trial on terrorist charges - has had his bail conditions changed to allow him to holiday in Donegal.

Wednesday, 24th August 2016, 6:50 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 4:53 pm
Pacemaker Press 10/3/2016 Damien 'Dee' Fennell leaves Laganside Court on Thursday. The prominent dissident republican activist is on charges relating to a speech he gave during a 1916 commemoration event at St Colman's graveyard in Lurgan, County Armagh on Easter Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The 34-year old, from Torrens Avenue, made an application to Belfast Crown Court to amend his bail conditions this week. He is due to stand trial later this year on three charges arising from a speech he gave last Easter at a graveyard in Lurgan during a 1916 Commemoration event.

Fennell has been accused of encouraging acts of terrorism, inviting support for the IRA and addressing a meeting to encourage support for the IRA. All three offences are dated April 5, 2015, and all fall under the Terrorism Act 2000. He has denied all charges.

During Monday’s application, Judge Gordon Kerr QC was told the Crown was opposed to the variation by a prosecution barrister who said that whilst awaiting trial on terrorist offences, Fennell “has been arrested, questioned and reported” on suspicion of murder and membership of a proscribed organisation.

Although no details of Fennell’s arrest were mentioned during the bail application, it is understood to relate to the murder of Ardoyne taxi driver Michael McGibbon. The 34-year old father of four died from gunshots he sustained in a shooting in an alleyway in north Belfast in April.

Telling the court that his client “has not been charged with the murder”, Fennell’s solicitor Peter Corrigan asked for the bail variation to allow him to go to Donegal on holiday for a week. Mr Corrigan said: “He has been on bail for a significant period without breaching his conditions.”

Mr Corrigan said that if bail was granted, his client would adhere to any requirements, such as reporting to Gardai, adding: “He is not going to abscond.”

Opposing the variation, the prosecution barrister said that two of Fennell’s current bail conditions are that he lives in Belfast, and reports to the PSNI three times a week.

Saying the accused was currently facing trial for terrorist offences, the barrister said that “in the interim period” between bail being granted and Fennell awaiting trial, he had been arrested and questioned for murder.

Judge Kerr said that whilst he understood the Crown’s concerns, he would grant the variation after a cash surety of £2,000 was lodged.

The judge ordered that Fennell report to the Garda in Donegal twice this week, and also asked that both the house number and phone number of the cottage where Fennell is staying be provided to police.