Belfast Telegraph

Facebook page used by Christine Connor still being hosted online

By Victoria Leonard

A Facebook page used by Christine Connor to communicate with two men who were caught up in her terrorist plot is still being hosted by the social media organisation.

Connor used the page, named 'United Struggle,' to communicate with Zachary Gevelinger from the USA and Stuart Downes from Shrewsbury.

The PSNI said that 31-year-old Downes, who jointly faced five charges including attempted murder, possessing explosives and causing explosions with intent to endanger life, played a "key part in the attacks".

Evidence showed he had sourced component parts and shipped them to his Belfast accomplice.

The PSNI also arrested and questioned Gevelinger after he visited Connor in Hydebank Prison on July 6, 2013. They found correspondence from him to Connor in her house, as well as cheques he had sent her.

The FBI searched Gevelinger's house in the US and seized computer equipment which confirmed the link to Connor. A PSNI spokesperson said: "We know she communicated with these men via a 'United Struggle' Facebook page she created - for her one member organisation. Neither of these men, who are now both deceased, had previous connections to Northern Ireland or to Northern Ireland related terrorism."

Yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph viewed the Republican page, which features a post describing Connor as "the sister of a former POW and daughter of a well-respected Republican activist," and has 183 followers.

The group, which styles itself as a "direct action group of activists, organised throughout Ireland" says its "sole objective is to tackle political and social issues" through what it calls a "hands-on approach."

It adds: "Politically mediated options will not be on the agenda of United Struggle, and instead we will engage in an array of activities ranging from property destruction to the occupation of government buildings."

In the last post, dated May 30, 2013, the group claims that Connor "faced harassment from questionable sources, with certain elements publicly alluding to her involvement in a number of incidents that she had played no role in and to her supposed membership of United Struggle, which subsequently resulted in unwarranted attention towards herself and close circle of friends, from British state agencies."

Despite this detailed information, the organisation claims Connor is not a member of the group, nor has she participated in "any actions that we may have carried out." However, it states that "given that Christine is a staunch and dedicated Republican, we will offer our support to her and her family at this time".

Facebook's Community Standards page says it does not allow organisations involved in terrorist or organised criminal activity "to have a presence on Facebook". The United Struggle page has remained on the site for four-and-a-half years. No response was available from Facebook at the time of going to press.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell said that the United Struggle Facebook page was "not the main method of communication used by Christine Connor while planning her attack on police officers". He added: "The PSNI contacted Facebook as part of our investigations into the attempted murder attacks in 2013. As there was no criminal content detected at that stage, no request was made for the page to be removed."

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