Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 12:42 UK

Dissidents threaten city 'hoods'

Oglaigh na hEireann mural
The name Oglaigh na hEireann has been used by a variety of groups

Dissident republicans have issued threats against a gang of youths with members as young as eight years old, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors said a gang called the Divis Hoods Liberation Army were warned that their lives were in danger because of involvement in crime across Belfast.

The court heard that police believe the "viable" threat came from the Oglaigh na hEireann splinter group.

Details emerged as a 16-year-old suspected gang member applied for bail.

He is charged with going equipped for theft and threats to damage property applied for bail.

Crown counsel Kate McKay said the accused, who cannot be named because of his age, had pleaded guilty to the offences committed in the Westlink area of Belfast and is due to be dealt with at the end of this month.

Mrs McKay opposed his bid to be released in the meantime by claiming it was safer for him to remain in secure accommodation.

Quite disturbingly the officer tells me they range from children as young as eight or nine up to teenagers
Crown counsel Kate McKay

"A serious threat has been made against him by dissident republicans. No address within Northern Ireland would be suitable to ensure his safety and that of his family," she said.

The barrister said police believe the accused is a member of the gang known as the Divis Hoods Liberation Army.

"Quite disturbingly the officer tells me they range from children as young as eight or nine up to teenagers."

Mrs McKay told the court it was alleged the group was involved in crime across the city, with the Divis area a particular hotspot.

"As a result of that a letter was sent to the Sunday World newspaper recently which named this applicant and three other youths, indicating their lives were in danger from a dissident republican group known as Oglaigh na hEireann - one of the lesser well known groups," the barrister said.

"The threat is considered by police to be a viable one."

One of the four threatened has gone to live outside Northern Ireland, two are in secure accommodation and the other is planning to leave the area, according to the prosecution.

The court was told the 16-year-old wanted to go to live with an elderly relative in England, although an alternative address outside Belfast was also put forward.

But Mrs McKay described his application as unnecessary, claiming it would be more sensible to keep him where he is until sentencing in three weeks.

Adjourning the case to allow checks on possible addresses, Mr Justice Stephens said he would take considerable persuading to consider any location near to where the offences were carried out.

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