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Accused heckled as he faces charge of withholding information over Alan Ryan murder

A 39-YEAR-OLD man was heckled and told he "should be f***ing shot" when he appeared in court on a charge for withholding information from gardai investigating the murder of Real IRA leader Alan Ryan.

The dissident republican was shot dead near his home on September 3 while he was walking along Grange Lodge Avenue, in Clongriffin, in north Dublin.

A masked gunman got out of a car and shot 32-year-old Ryan in the body and legs, bringing him to the ground, before he was hit with another bullet in his head.

A man who had been with Ryan sustained a wound to his leg. Gardai later recovered a burnt-out car at Hole in the Wall Road in Donaghmede which was believed to have been was used by the killers.

This morning, father-of-two Thomas Hunt was brought before Dublin District Court charged with withholding information which might have been of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of a person, on September 3 last.

Mr Hunt, from Canon Lillis Avenue, in Dublin northside, had been detained at Coolock Garda station for questioning for a week.

The courtroom was cleared this morning but journalists and members of Mr Hunt's family were allowed to remain for the proceedings. Two men in the public gallery initially refused to budge with one of them telling a garda “We are here for Alan Ryan.”

When the pair got up, the second man shouted “Tiocfaidh ar La” and looked in the direction of Mr Hunt before adding “you should be f***king shot”. After the men were escorted out of the courtroom, the hearing commenced.

Garda Alan Roche told Judge Patricia McNamara that Mr Hunt made “no reply” when the charge was put to him last night. Gda Roche objected to bail saying there were concerns that Mr Hunt would flee the jurisdiction. He also cited the seriousness of the charge saying it involved “withholding information in relation to the murder of Alan Ryan”.

Gda Roche said it was a complex investigation with a large volume of CCTV footage, witness statements and computer analysis.

He agreed with defence solicitor Jenny McGeever that Mr Hunt was in a long-term relationship, had children and “was rooted in his community”. Ms McGeever said that Mr Hunt had serious health problems but did not have any addiction issues, and she submitted that the garda had agreed that there was “not a smidgen of evidence” that he would leave the country.

Ms McGeever also pointed out that the charge, which on conviction can carry a five-year sentence, will be “fully contested” by her client.

The defence lawyer also said that Mr Hunt's family were not well off and that he has already surrendered his passport. She also told the court that Mr Hunt would abide by bail terms and not apply for any new travel documents.

Mr Hunt, who is on disability benefit, was wearing a grey tracksuit and black body-warmer, and did not address the court.

Judge McNamara granted bail terms in Mr Hunt's own bond of €6,000 of which she stipulated €2,000 must be lodged. She also said that given the seriousness of the charge an independent surety in the sum of €10,000 would have to be approved. Anyone intending to stand the €10,000 independent bail would have to give 24 hours' notice to gardai to allow them an opportunity to check their veracity, the judge also held.

In the event that bail is taken up, he must: reside at new address furnished to the court; give gardai a mobile phone number so they can contact him; not apply for other travel documents; sign on three times a week at a garda station, and “not interfere with witnesses directly or indirectly”.

Mr Hunt was remanded in custody with consent to bail and will appear again at Cloverhill District Court next Wednesday.

At the time of his death, Alan Ryan was on bail awaiting trial on serious charges arising from an alleged extortion racket. He had also served sentences for IRA membership and firearms offences.

Ryan, who is believed to have had disputes with Dublin criminals, was buried on September 8. A volley of three shots was fired over his coffin during his paramilitary-style funeral which was attended by hundreds of mourners.

Gardai were present but did not intervene in the display, which also involved men and women, in combat uniform with masks and sunglasses, who were surrounded by other mourners.

Later, Justice Minister Alan Shatter defended the gardai for not intervening after the shots were fired, saying innocent lives could have been lost.

The hunt for Alan Ryan's murderers is on-going and since his funeral gardai have also launched a clampdown on dissident activities.