Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Crossmaglen bomb parts man McAllister gets 12 years

A pipebomb
Turlough McAllister admitted grinding fertilser for pipebombs

A south Armagh man has been jailed for 12 years for grinding down fertiliser to be used for making pipebombs.

Turlough Robert McAllister, 36, of Lisarraw Road in Crossmaglen, admitted making and possessing explosives.

He was caught in his grandmother's former home putting fertiliser through an industrial-sized coffee grinder.

The judge said McAllister, a son of former Sinn Fein councillor Jim McAllister, was "deeply involved in an effort to construct viable pipebombs".

Mr Justice Hart told Belfast Crown Court that maybe "despite his efforts he had not fully mastered the technique of making them properly".

McAllister also had bags of ground and unground ammonium nitrate fertiliser in a back bedroom.

A follow-up search uncovered a number of shotgun cartridges and pipebomb-making equipment, while a handbook on how to make improvised munitions was found in his own home. McAllister admitted having these items.

Shoes on fire

An earlier court hearing heard that in 2002, McAlister was handed a suspended jail term after he admitted throwing a petrol bomb at Crossmaglen PSNI station.

In this failed attack, he succeeded only in setting fire to his own shoes.

A defence lawyer revealed that his father Jim was first elected in 1982 and remained a Sinn Fein councillor until 1996.

He resigned from the party in protest at the death of 21-year-old south Armagh man Paul Quinn, who was beaten to death in County Monaghan in October 2007. Mr Quinn's family said IRA members were involved.

The defence lawyer said his client was prevailed upon by others "to allow that house to be used".

"He was prevailed upon to assist them and he was grinding this material down, but he did not buy it nor did he have anything to do with the pipe things," he said.

"He instructs me that he is not and has never been a member of any illegal organisation."

Mr Justice Hart said his guilty plea was the only mitigating factor in favour of McAllister, who now feels "he has been used and betrayed".

"Nevertheless, it is an aggravating feature of the present case that the defendant was not merely in possession of the components of pipe bombs, but was attempting to make them and the sentence must reflect that," he added.

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