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Charges against 43 republicans dropped over ‘fundamental’ prosecution oversight

Newry courthouse police

There were jubilant scenes in a Newry courtroom today (Friday) as parade breach charges against more than 40 republicans, many of them high profile, were dismissed due to a “fundamental” prosecution oversight.

As District Judge Eamon King dismissed the case against the 43 defendants, many of the defendants clapped and cheered the announcement while alleged terrorists David Jordan and Kevin Barry Murphy, appearing by videolink from prison, held their fists aloft in celebration.

The 43 defendants, 35 men and eight women, had all faced two charges arising from a hunger strike memorial parade in Newry on October 5, 2019 – failing to comply with conditions put in place by the Parades Commission and taking part in an unnotified parade.

Amongst the defendants were two men facing charges in relation to the murder of journalist Lyra McKee, three men and a woman currently on remand accused of IRA membership and directing terrorism, allegedly snared in an MI5, double agent covert sting, two men accused in a Spotlight documentary of being the leaders of the New IRA and a convicted terrorist who was jailed for assisting offenders in the murder of a police officer.

The 43 defendants facing the two charges were:

* Brian John Carron (37), Colliers Lane, Coalisland;
* Anthony Coyle (62), Main Avenue, Newry;
* Danielle Black (31), Cypress Gardens, Lurgan;
* Edwina Canavan (58), St. James’ Road, Belfast;
* Son of a murdered Sinn Fein member and convicted car bomber Conor Casey (51), Forth Glen, Cookstown.
* Peter Cavanagh (34), Elmwood Terrace, L/Derry, currently on bail accused of Lyra McKee murder;
* Forrest Coffey (35), Gartan Square, L/Derry;
* Donna Connolly (age unknown), McGoldrick Villas, Kilkeel;
* Gerard Thomas Connolly (50), Abbey Park, Kilkeel;
* Martin Connolly (58) Casement Park, Kilkeel;
* Samantha Connolly (57), also Casement Park;
* James Devine (20), Synge Court, L/Derry;
* Jordan Devine (22), Bishop Street, L/Derry;
* Michael Dinsmore (42), Kennard Villas, Newry, chairman of the Newry branch of Saoradh;
* Anthony Donaghy (60), McGoldrick Villas, Newry;
* Anthony Campbell (22), Gosheden Cottages, L/Derry, on bail for riot and having a petrol bomb on the night Lyra McKee was shot;
* Damien Fennell (40), Duneden Park, Belfast;
* Aiden Ferguson (42), Highbury Gardens, Belfast;
* Declan Ferguson (38) Kerrera Mews, Belfast;
* Joe Fitzsimmons (67), Mill Hill, Castlewellan;
* Kieran Gallagher (45), Creggan Heights, L/Derry;
* Patrick Gallagher (30), John Field Park, L/Derry;
* Gary Hayden (50), Tyrconnell Street, L/Derry, facing terrorist charges in MI5 operation;
* Darrin Hynes (19), Chequer Hill, Newry;
* David Jordan (51), Cappagh Road, Dungannon;
* Sharon Jordan (47), also Cappagh Road – husband and wife both facing charges arising from MI5 operation;
* Charlie Love (28), Bridge Street, Strabane, recently remanded into custody for the attempted murder of two police officers in his home town;
* Alan Lundy (43), Flax Street, Belfast;
* Cliodhna McCool (29), Ballymagowan Gardens, L/Derry;
* Grainne McCreesh (37), Rothsay Square, Belfast;
* Jacqueline McCullough (57), Moira Court, Belfast;
* Patrick McDaid (52), Magowan Park, L/Derry, also facing charges arising from MI5 operation;
* Patrick McGrath (31), Saunderson Court, Belfast;
* David McVeigh (54), Boat Street, Newry;
* Fergal Melaugh (64), Magowan Park, L/Derry;
* Thomas Ashe Mellon (46), Rathmore Road, L/Derry – according to a Spotlight documentary, both melaugh and Mellon were in the PIRA in the 90s and were accused of being the new IRA leaders in the documentary;
* Eamon Barry Millar (38), Raftery Close, L/Derry;
* Thomas Moore (53), Farren Park, L/Derry;
* Stephen Murney (39), Derrybeg Terrace, Newry – national chairman of Saoradh;
* Kevin Barry Murphy (52), c/o Maghaberry, on remand from directing terrorism arising from MI5 sting operation;
* Brendan Gerard O’Connor (44), Cavanoneill Road, Pomeroy – previously acquitted in 2000 of Real IRA membership, having explosives and a bomb attack on Stewartstown police station;
* Christopher O’Kane (49), Main Street, L/Derry – jailed in 2015 for string of terrorist offences in the 90s including assisting offenders in the murder of police officers, firing a mortar at a police vehicle and causing an explosion;
* Peter Tuohey (25), Orriter Road, Cookstown.

Opening the Crown case, a prosecuting lawyer told the court how the Parades Commission had made a determination that the parade was to follow a certain route and that there “shall be no colour parties of any type, nor flags, clothes, instruments, badges or emblems displayed which could be seen as associated with any paramilitary organisations; no paramilitary clothing is to be worn at any time during the parade, also flags, bannerettes and symbols relating to a proscribed organisation shall in no circumstances be displayed; no musical instrument or any object will bear any inscription or mark of a proscribed organisation; the parade organisers shall ensure that the parade begins and disperses promptly; the parade organisers shall ensure that all stewards and participants obey any direction given by the police in relation to this parade; the parade organisers shall ensure that these conditions are drawn to the attention of all participants.”

A police inspector had tried to serve a copy of the determination on organisers before the parade and on the day it occurred but they refused to accept it.

Evidence gathering teams were deployed on the day and they recorded that as the parade was about to march off, a colour party unveiled a number of flags so according to the Crown case, “there was an immediate breach of the determination”.

The parade progressed through the city but at one stage, it turned into Hill Street and despite several police warnings to the marshalls, it continued on which was in breach of the Parades Commission determination and was not a notified route.

Each of the defendants, she told the court, were identified from video footage recorded by police evidence gathering teams.

However, the Crown case fell apart when defence counsel Kevin Magill highlighted that while the alleged Parades Commission breaches were before the court, “the fundamental problem is that the PC determination is not”.

“There’s no map, the [notified] route is not stated so there is a fundamental difficulty,” declared the barrister who suggested to the judge, “how can you determine what a breach is when the determination is not before you of what the route was”.

“There’s no evidence before this court to satisfy the court that the route was in breach of the determination,” declared the lawyer.

While the PPS lawyer initially tried to argue there was sufficient material on the court papers, a short time later she said that having reviewed the papers, “I concede the point.”

District Judge King said that “accordingly, in those circumstances, the charges against all defendants are dismissed”.

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