Man accused of firearms offences ‘heavily connected’ to UDA

A Carrickfergus man accused of firearms offences is “heavily connected” to the East Antrim UDA, a court has heard.

Clifford Irons appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Saturday charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

The 39-year-old from Castlemara Drive was arrested after the discovery of two loaded shotguns in a car at Buskin Place in the Co Antrim town on 28 October.

A police constable told the court he could connect Irons to the charges.

The officer told the court the car had been parked outside the home of a relative of Irons, and that new phone evidence established a mobile phone associated with Irons had contacted the seller of the Vauxhall Vectra.

He revealed that Irons had already been questioned about the weapons before being released unconditionally but that now, police had objections to Irons being freed.

The police believe the weapons are connected a feud involving the South East Antrim brigade of the UDA.

The constable added it was police’s assessment that the defendant was heavily linked to the group and objected to bail on the grounds it could lead to further violence.

He said police believed the weapons were to be “used in some form of activity linked to that feud”.

The policeman admitted under cross-examination that four other men possibly connected to the Vectra, had been questioned but released, two of whom are pending reports to the PPS.

But he pointed out various items were found during searches of Irons’ home including balaclavas, a bag similar to one which the guns were wrapped in as well as a list of instructions.

Iron’s solicitor however, argued that there was no forensic evidence to connect his client to the car the guns were found in, adding that Irons has a family and strong ties to Carrick.

The judge remanded Irons into custody to appear before the court on 19 December by videolink.