Republican supporters of five accused of membership of the breakaway ‘Real IRA’ were cleared from a packed courtroom yesterday.
Relatives and friends of the four men and a woman were expelled amid a combustible atmosphere in Ballymena, County Antrim.
Lawyers for the accused resisted the ruling and following negotiations some family members were allowed to return to the special sitting of the town’s magistrates court.
The five are facing explosive charges, although police have refused to say what substances were found during searches of the house where the seizure was made. It is believed the substances in question may be routine household products.
Some of the accused shouted ‘Tiocfaidh Ar La’ and ‘Our Day Will Come’ as they were being led out of the court in handcuffs.
Meanwhile, a Dundalk man has been charged with involvement in the 1998 Omagh bomb.
Colm Murphy, also from Dundalk, was recently freed pending retrial after a court found that police had falsified evidence to secure his conviction in the case.
The second man to face charges was arrested on Monday in Newry and charged with providing the vehicle used in the attack.
The ‘Real IRA’ carried out the bombing, which killed 29 people. Telephoned warnings failed to clear the area of the attack in advance of the bomb’s detonation. The case remains mired in controversy over the actions of the police and the role of police informers on both sides of the border.