Lecturer was IRA quartermaster, court told

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The Independent Online
A English-born sociology lecturer who used his position as a cover for his other role as an IRA quartermaster was caught red-handed as he planned a mainland bombing campaign, an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.

Feilim O'Hadhmaill, 35, was seized as he was about to dismantle a car in which the terrorists had concealed a pistol and enough Semtex explosives and detonators for 17 bombs in secret compartments, the court was told.

Officers from MI5 and the police anti-terrorist squad had kept O'Hadhmaill and the car, which the IRA had shipped to England, under surveillance for some time after he had moved to take up a post at the University of Central Lancashire, at Preston.

Yesterday, O'Hadhmaill, of Accrington, Lancashire, who changed his name by deed poll from Hamill to the Gaelic version in 1984, denied conspiracy to cause explosions between January last year and February this year.

Sir Derek Spencer, QC, for the prosecution, told how O'Hadhmaill had moved from Belfast, where his wife and two children live, to take up the job as a lecturer in January.

'It provided him with an admirable cover for the other side of his character, not the academic, but as a very active and skilled operator in a major bombing campaign,' said Sir Derek, the Solicitor General.

Surveillance teams filmed him entering and leaving the house he rented in Accrington from a colleague and monitored his telephone calls, some made from call boxes a short distance away, in which he used codes to members of the IRA active service unit. Shortly afterwards, he went to the south of England to collect the car, allegedly sent by the IRA, which he drove back to the area where he lived.

Sir Derek said that O'Hadhmaill had earlier bought a plastic fermentation bin, similar to a small white dustbin, and buried it in a wood nearby.

However, as O'Hadhmaill, was about to take the materials from the car, police moved in and arrested him. Officers discovered 17kg of Semtex H, timers and detonators and an automatic 9mm handgun.

'The defendant was caught red-handed as he tried to dismantle the car in which the explosives were hidden,' Sir Derek said.

'This plot was thwarted, many lives were saved and great damage was avoid.'

Police searched O'Hadhmaill and found cigarette papers wrapped in cling film listing potential military, political and economic targets, in his handwriting, the prosecution alleged.

'The lists included names of politicians, members of the Cabinet, and backbenchers who have a special interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland,' Sir Derek said. The targets also included army bases which have been attacked by the IRA in the past.'

O'Hadhmaill had a deep interest in sociology, 'things Gaelic, and in the political, social and economic problems of the island of Ireland', Sir Derek said.