Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Belfast jail recall man was 'RIRA chief'

Scene of attempted bomb attack in 2002
Terence McCafferty tried to blow up a motor tax office in 2002

A Belfast man was sent back to jail based on intelligence alleging he was a Real IRA leader planning attacks after his release, it has been revealed.

The reasons for revoking Terence McCafferty's licence were disclosed as he lost his appeal against the decision by Security Minister Paul Goggins.

His lawyers argued that only Secretary of State Shaun Woodward had the power to order his return to prison.

Three Court of Appeal judges ruled that Mr Goggins did have the power.

McCafferty, from the New Lodge area of the city, received a 12-year sentence in July 2005 after being convicted of possessing explosives after an attempt to blow up a Belfast motor tax office in 2002.

The 41-year-old was released on licence last November, but was rearrested the following month and returned to Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn, County Antrim.

Mr Goggins authorised the revocation on the grounds that his continued liberty would put the public at risk and the possibility of further offences.

Following a failed application for a writ of habeas corpus, McCafferty sought to overturn the decision in the Court of Appeal.

Ruling on the new challenge, Lord Justice Coghlin set out the contents of a letter from the Security Minister giving reasons for revoking his licence.


"In reaching that decision Paul Goggins had regard to information made available to him that you are a leading and active member of the Real Irish Republican Army who held the position of officer commanding of RIRA prisoners within HMP Maghaberry prior to your release from prison in November 2008," it stated.

"During your sentence, you remained in regular contact with senior RIRA members and involved in directing RIRA business, and displayed a clear desire to continue your involvement in RIRA activity on your release, including in becoming involved in plans for attacks that would present a threat to public safety.

"From immediately on your release you have been in regular contact with leading RIRA figures. It is assessed that you have taken up a leading role in the organisation and have been involved in plans to conduct attacks."

McCafferty categorically denied the allegations in the letter, which was not read out in open court during a summary of the nine-page judgement.

His legal team claimed the Security Minister was biased because he was unlikely to have made an independent decision on someone believed to pose a threat.


It was also argued that he probably had access to "damaging information" which could not be seen by McCafferty or his advisors for security reasons.

But Lord Justice Coghlin, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Girvan, found no substance in the submissions.

Dismissing the appeal, the judge acknowledged ultimate responsibility for security in Northern Ireland rests with the Secretary of State.

"Both he and the Minister will have the same concerns for and receive the same briefings about the matters of security and both are subject to the same systems of accountability," he said.

"Both occupy high offices of State. In such circumstances, it is entirely appropriate that the Minister of State should be entitled to exercise the Secretary of State's decision making functions under the 1995 (Remission of Sentences) Act."

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