15 Aug 2022

Derry court hears ‘INLA’ involved in Donegal land dispute after man appears on blackmail charge

A ‘land dispute’ resulted in people purporting to be from the INLA threatening one of the parties involved, a Derry court has been told. Darren Sweeney, 46, with an address at Moress, Inch Islam, County Donegal is charged with conspiracy to commit blackmail on dates between March 23 and June 22. A police officer connected the accused to the charge and opposed bail. He told the court the dispute was between Sweeney and another man over land in Inch Island. The officer said that Sweeney was alleged to have been asking that the land be transferred to him. At one stage he was said to have introduced the other party to a female, who said that that if the dispute was not resolved then the INLA would become involved. The court head that in May, two unidentified men visited the alleged injured party’s place of work in Derry. The men claimed to be from the INLA and said not to tell the police. They left notes telling the man to sign the land over to Sweeney or else ‘your children will grow up without a father’. They also said if the man went to police his house would be blown up. Then, in June, another two unidentified males entered the same workplace and said if the land was not transferred the injured party's 'home would be visited.' At this time an associate of the alleged injured party recorded the interaction. The officer said that Sweeney was denying all the offences but did accept there was an issue between the parties. He opposed bail 0n the grounds that there could be further offences and interference with witnesses. He said that there could be at least five other people involved in this case still to be questioned. Defence solicitor, Tom McClafferty said that there was little direct evidence against his client. He said Sweeney accepted he introduced the female to the man but denied there was any threat made. He said he is still on good terms with the alleged injured party although the police officer said that was not their understanding. The solicitor added that his client had ‘absolutely no idea where these people turned up from.' District Judge Barney McElholm said that he believed the INLA did not recognise property rights. He added that there were only two possibilities - either the defendant was lying or the alleged injured party had made the whole story up, even going so far as to fake a recording of the men threatening him. “Why would he do that?” the judge added. Mr McClafferty said there was an agreement between his client and the other party to settle the issue, with Judge McElholm adding that he would be prepared to adjourn the case so this agreement could be shown to the court. After consulting with his clien, the solicitor said he did not have a copy of this agreement as he had signed it but not kept a copy. Judge McElholm said that his patience ran thin when people 'tell me lies' He said Sweeney 'had been making it up as he goes along and told a pack of lies’, before adding that he was refusing bail for fear of further offending and interference with the course of justice. Sweeney was remanded in custody until July 23.

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