Robin Workman is charged over the guns and ammunition haul recovered from the boot of Irvine’s jeep following a police operation in west Belfast last month.
The 51-year-old Co Antrim joiner is alleged to have ferried the weapons, magazines and bullets in his Volkswagen van to a meeting with Irvineon Glencairn Street in the Woodvale area of the city.
Among the stash of potentially deadly items were a single 8mm blank-firing pistol, an ME38 .22 Brocock revolver airgun, 203 rounds of 9x19mmm ammunition, two rounds of 7.65x17mm, two rounds of .243 Winchester and a single round of 5.56x45mm ammunition.
Nine magazines were also found, including one which is used for the SA80 assault rifle issued to the Armed Forces.
Workman, of Shore Road in Larne, appeared at Belfast’s High Court on Friday where he was granted bail despite police objections to him being freed.
He is charged with possessing a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, possessing a prohibited firearm, possession of a handgun without a certificate and having ammunition without a certificate, all on June 8.
Police opposed his release from custody, claiming the incident had the “hallmarks of a paramilitary operation”.
Mr Justice John O’Hara was also told that a UVF jumper, magazine and books about weapons were found at an address linked to Workman.
A defence barrister said Workman denied being the driver of the van or being involved in the alleged weapons handover.
Mr Justice O’Hara said: “The suspicions against him have increased by the manner in which the items were wrapped and found in the bags in Mr Irvine’s car. That was added to by the UVF materials and memorabilia found in Mr Workman’s home, and particularly by the fact he had three mobile phones [for which] he has refused to disclose the PIN numbers.”
But based on his “virtually non-existent” criminal record, Mr Justice O’Hara decided to grant bail.
“Police concerns are not unreasonable, nor are they exaggerated, but he is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” he said.
Workman was ordered to report to police three times a week and is expected to comply with any request to provide mobile phone passcodes.
He was also barred from having any contact, directly or indirectly, with Irvine.
Irvine was granted bail by the same judge last week after he was told that forensic tests had not found any link to him and the bag in which the munitions were found.
Irvine’s barrister told the court that Northern Ireland Office minister Conor Burns wrote a letter in December last year stating he would have no issue in continuing dialogue with Irvine.
A former Policing Board chair provided a character reference, as did others who were not named during the proceedings.
Irvine was freed on condition that he lodge a cash surety of £10,000 from his family and his own bail of £750.
Mr Justice O’Hara said: “Whatever the police concerns about him, he is a man who is now 47. He has a very limited criminal record and, whatever the risk, I think they can be managed.”
The letter from Mr Burns drew criticism, but it was defended by the Northern Ireland Office in a statement last week.
“Minister Burns wrote to Winston Irvine in 2021 noting that dialogue and debate are vital in Northern Ireland and indicating his willingness to engage,” it said but added that the letter was never intended for use in criminal proceedings.