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Notorious dissident bomb-maker Patrick ‘Mooch’ Blair wants transfer to Portlaoise Prison

Blair (67) is serving a five-year sentence imposed in November 2020 after he and six other men were caught in an MI5 bugging operation

Patrick Blair in 2011. Photo: Collins Photos.

Ken FoyIndependent.ie

One of the most notorious dissident republicans in the history of the State has applied to be transferred from jail in Northern Ireland to Portlaoise Prison.

Convicted bomb-maker Patrick ‘Mooch’ Blair (67) is serving a five-year sentence imposed in November 2020 after he and six other men were caught in an MI5 bugging operation targeting the Continuity IRA.

Blair, who has strong links to the Dundalk area, was convicted of charges of belonging or professing to belong to a proscribed organisation; providing weapons and explosives training; conspiring to possess explosives, firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life; and collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists.

Sources said he has recently applied to serve the rest of his sentence in the Republic under the Council of Europe Convention on the transfer of sentenced prisoners.

For his application to be successful, there must be agreement with the authorities here and in Northern Ireland, and four separate conditions must also be met.

“This is an individual who has a lengthy involvement with dissident republicanism, and if he returns to the Republic he will be closely monitored by the Special Detective Unit and other specialist garda units,” a source said.

“He has made the application to be transferred here, but the process could take many months.”

At his sentencing hearing in 2020 at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice Colton said Blair and a co-accused had not “disavowed their involvement in dissident republican activity”.

Mr Justice Colton said the contents of the discussions, which included plots to make bombs and kill, made for “grim and depressing reading” and that Blair posed a danger to the public.

Although the defendants faced only conspiracy charges, Mr Justice Colton said the plots had been “thwarted” when police raided the meeting house in Ardcarn Park, Newry, on November 10, 2014.

The defendants pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to charges arising from a covert surveillance operation.

The recordings revealed a plot to target a senior prison governor and specific police officers. Among the targets named were Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, who, at the time of the arrests, was PSNI Deputy Chief Constable.

Evidence was also given of plans to break in to homes for cash and legally-held firearms, a plot to steal sulphur from a factory in Dublin to make explosives and a plan to buy a silencer for an automatic handgun Blair had in his possession.

It was the prosecution’s case that Blair was the leader of the Continuity IRA.

Blair was one of the most senior IRA men during the Troubles and later became involved with the Real IRA.

He was named in the UK’s House of Commons as having “helped to construct the Omagh bomb”.

That atrocity, in 1998, killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins.

Blair later denied any involvement in the bombing.

In November 2011, he told the Smithwick Tribunal that one-time MI5 informer Kevin Fulton, who named him as a suspect, was “a fantasist” and he offered to take a lie detector test to prove it.

In 1975 Blair was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempted murder. He was released in 1982 and moved to Dundalk.

When contacted, a spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said they “do not comment on individual prisoner cases.”

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