Threat to 'MI5 man' puts trial in doubt

1 May 2010
The Irish News
Barry McCaffrey

A major dissident arms trial is in jeopardy after one of the accused was warned by police that he is under death threat over claims he is an MI5 agent. South Armagh man Dermot Declan Gregory (41), also known as Michael Dermot, is due to go on trial on Tuesday in connection with a dissident republican attempt to smuggle guns from mainland Europe in 2005.

Paul McCaugherty (43) of Beech Court and Desmond Kearns (44) of Tannaghmore Green, both in Lurgan, Co Armagh, are accused of attempting to acquire firearms and explosives for Oglaigh Na hEireann (ONH).

Mr McCaugherty and Mr Gregory are also charged with entering into an arrangement to make the deeds of a restaurant in Portugal available for the purposes of terrorism. The three were arrested in 2006 after a two-year MI5 'sting' operation.

The trial is due to hear evidence from more than 30 MI5 officers. However, question marks now hang over the case after police informed Mr Gregory, of Concession Road, Crossmaglen, that his life is in danger.

In a statement supplied to The Irish News, ONH claimed Mr Gregory admitted being an MI5 agent for six years. It alleged he passed on details about two attempts to buy arms on the continent and allowed officers to bug cars that were then passed on to dissidents.

MI5 is said to have assured Mr Gregory the charges against him would be dropped. It is also claimed that Mr Gregory admitted involvement in a bomb-making operation with south Armagh man Turlough McAllister. In February McAllister was jailed for 12 years for possession of explosives.

Mr Gregory is alleged to have been told by MI5 to abandon the remaining explosives at a flyover near Newry.

McAllister's father Jim last night claimed Mr Gregory told him he was an MI5 agent. "It had been widely speculated in south Armagh for months that Gregory was an agent," he said. "He personally admitted this to me earlier this month." However, the former Sinn Fein councillor also claimed there were major inconsistencies in the ONH statement.

"They claim that Gregory was involved with my son but he wasn't involved in whatever was going on," he said. He said he believes another "more sinister" figure from Dublin who recruited his son was also being protected. Mr Gregory, although contacted via his solicitors by The Irish News yesterday, failed to comment on the allegations.

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