The Covid-19 pandemic was a factor in a decision by Belfast's High Court to allow 68-year-old-John Downey, who is charged with murdering two British soldiers in 1972, to return to his native Donegal on bail.

Mr Downey, from the village of Creeslough, was extradited to Northern Ireland last year to face prosecution for his role in a car bomb attack that killed two members of the UDR near Enniskillen 48 years ago.

Last December, he was granted bail on condition that he would stay with a Sinn Féin representative in the Belfast area.

At Belfast's High Court today, his legal team successfully argued that it is no longer suitable for him to continue his current bail arrangements in Belfast due to his underlying health problems.

Mr Justice McAlinden said senior members of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland would suffer significant embarrassment and reputational damage if the new bail arrangement was broken.

The defendant has a respiratory condition and other health issues. His barrister confirmed he wants to go back to Donegal until the current health emergency is over.

A sum of £225,000 was lodged as part of the original bail arrangement and Mr Justice McAlinden ordered that a family member of the defendant provide an additional £5,000 as part of the new bail conditions.

The judge also directed that Mr Downey must have Skype video calls with a PSNI officer twice a week to ensure he is at the bail hearing.

Senior members of Sinn Féin had opposed Mr Downey's extradition to Northern Ireland last October. He had been detained in 2018 on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.

None of the legal team members were present in Belfast's High Court for today's proceedings, as the hearing was carried out by telephone conference due to the current pandemic.