Man pleads guilty to possession of firebomb and arms

21-year-old dissident republican arrested last year in Derry as part of intelligence-led operation

A 21-year-old Derry man pleaded guilty to possession of a firebomb, arms and ammunition with intent to endanger life or to enable some other person to do so at Belfast Crown Court today. He was arrested last year as part of a police “intelligence-led” operation against dissidents.

Nathan Hastings from Stradowen Drive in Strathfoyle in Derry who has previously represented the dissident 32 County Sovereignty Movement in the city was convicted of possession of a "pipe-bomb improvised device", a Walther X-esse .22 pistol and magazine, two modified handguns as well as 264 rounds of assorted ammunition.

Hastings said he was “guilty” of the charges when he appeared this morning before Judge Piers Grant at Laganside Crown Court. He was remanded in custody and is to appear again in court at the end of June ahead of sentencing.

As he was led from the dock he spoke briefly to his mother, his partner and sister who were sitting in the public gallery.


Hastings, a telecommunications employee, was to have gone on trial today. His defence lawyer Gavan Duffy, QC, however asked for him to be rearraigned on the first and third counts of the four-part indictment against him.

Mr Duffy said that he would be providing the court "with a bundle of material" on his client. He said that the court would also be provided with "an agreed factual analysis" on the case.

Following his guilty pleas, a prosecution lawyer said that they were being “tendered” on the basis of “the second limb”. This is normally understood to mean that Hastings did not intend using the weapons himself, but had it for someone else. The lawyer also asked for the remaining charges of possessing the materials under suspicious circumstances to be “left on the books”.

While no details were provided today about the circumstances of the case evidence was given at earlier hearing in February that Hastings was the driver of one of two cars that were stopped at Northland Road in Derry in April last year.

A PSNI officer, described as a member of the police Quick Reaction Force, was granted anonymity and allowed to give evidence behind a screen. The witness called A37 said the arrest of Hastings was as a result of an "intelligence-led" operation.

He said on April 12h last year he received intelligence briefings throughout the day about the operation. He told how two cars were stopped on Northland Road but only one of the cars, a Citroen that Hastings was driving, was searched. This was when the pipebomb, arms and ammunition were found.

He was asked why he had just searched the Citroen and replied that his job was to “plug the holes” wherever he found them. He said he had no specific information that the Citroen contained the weapons.


Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times