Report from Antrim Crown Court where Madden & Finucane represent Gary McDaid.

A Derry man accused of being a dissident republican bomber has been told he won’t face terrorist charges after he instead admitted helping a man in the belief he was a cigarette smuggler.

Gary McDaid (37), who had faced charges of conspiracy and having explosives with intent to endanger life two years ago, will be sentenced next month.

The man he admitted helping evade cigarette duty was his former co-accused, 37-year-old Seamus McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, of Derry’s Creggan, was jailed for 12 years in November for having four “ready to deploy” improvised mortars and an incendiary device with intent to endanger life in March 2013.

McDaid, of the city, was to have gone on trial in Antrim this week but Judge Desmond Marrinan adjourned the case, as he had done last September, before it could be opened by the prosecution.

Prosecuting QC Ciaran Murphy thanked the judge yesterday for the “time allowed” and asked permission for a 13th count to be added to the original indictment, which at one stage had been jointly faced by both McDaid and McLaughlin.

That extra charge accused McDaid of “encouraging or assisting an offence believing it would be committed contrary to Section 45 of the Serious Crime Act 2007”, the particulars being that on March 3 2013 McDaid “drove a motorcycle believing that Seamus McLaughin would commit an offence contrary to Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979, of being knowingly concerned in carrying cigarettes with intent to evade duty, and that this act would assist him to do so”.

Following McDaid’s guilty plea, Mr Murphy asked that the remaining four terrorist charges – conspiracy to cause an explosion with the four improvised mortars, possessing them with intent and under suspicious circumstances, and having an article, namely a Citroen Berlingo van, for the purposes of terrorism – “remain on the books and not be proceeded with, without further order of this court”.

Judge Marrinan released McDaid on continuing bail before sentencing late next month.

No details were revealed about McDaid’s role, or what he believed McLaughlin was doing when they were arrested on Derry’s Letterkenny Road that day, and the mortars were uncovered in the rear of the Citroen Berlingo van.

However, previous court hearings were told that McDaid had been travelling behind the van on a motorcycle.

When McLaughlin was jailed last year, the court heard it was the prosecution case that the improvised mortar system – which included four launch tubes, four propelling units and four mortar bombs – were to be used for an attack on security forces, most probably a police station.

The roof of the van was said to have been cut back to allow the mortars to be fired.

The Irish News