Republican parade man is unmasked
A man who was the lead flag bearer in a republican parade has walked free from court after his 16-month jail term was suspended for three years.
Belfast Crown Court Judge David McFarland had earlier found 43-year-old Londonderry man Patrick John McDaid guilty of managing a meeting in support of a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA, after deciding that despite being masked, he was "Man X" at the front of the march, carrying the Irish tricolour.
During a two-day hearing last month, the Diplock, no jury trial judge had heard evidence that experts in facial mapping and image comparison techniques said that the masked man carrying the flag at the head of the march in the City Cemetery in Derry on Easter Sunday 2011 was McDaid, despite the fact that he was wearing a balaclava.
The seven-strong, masked colour party, carrying various flags headed up a parade at the cemetery close to the graves of republicans during an Easter Sunday commemoration, organised by the 32 County Sovereign Movement, where a speech was made by a masked man on behalf of the Real IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann.
The colour party had been driven to the cemetery in the back of a van driven by Marvin Canning, a brother-in-law of the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Before the trial started, 51-year-old Canning, from Galliagh Park in Londonderry, pleaded guilty to the same charge but he also walked free from court after his nine-month jail term was suspended for three years.
Pleading guilty alongside him was fellow Derry man, 30-year-old Frank Quigley from Elmwood Road whose 10-month jail term was suspended for three years.
Quigley had been in the back of the van along with the masked colour party and police helicopter footage had shown him adjusting the balaclava of one of the masked men.
In addition to the photos and facial mapping evidence, the judge heard how police seized a document in searches which purported to be minutes of a meeting to organise the Easter Sunday march, among which was a notation of "Colour party – McDaid to get people sorted."
Judge McFarland said evidence about the images and similarities between "Man X" and McDaid taken alone would not have satisfied him beyond reasonable doubt of his guilt. But he added: "The defendant has also been motivated to keep a movie clip of the 2011 commemoration on his computer and taking all the evidence together, I am driven to the conclusion that the reference to 'McDaid' is a reference to the defendant."
Judge McFarland said he also drew an adverse inference against McDaid by his silence during police interviews and again at his trial.
The judge concluded that taking all this into account, he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt as to McDaid's guilt.