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Michael Stone branded sad and out of touch . . . by his own barrister

Loyalist Michael Stone knew that any attempt to assassinate Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness was impossible in his lone assault on Stormont, the Court of Appeal has heard.

His own lawyers instead claimed his thwarted bid to get into Parliament Buildings was the action of “a sad attention-seeker out of touch with reality”.

Stone (54), is seeking to overturn his convictions for trying to murder Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness in November 2006.

His barrister said that defence claims that it was ‘performance art’ may seem “laughable”.

But Orlando Pownall QC stressed the frail physical condition of Stone, who suffers from motor neuropathy and was said to have taken two hours to make the mile-long walk from the gates of Stormont. He said: “What he was claiming he was going to achieve, namely entering into the Assembly, the deployment of bombs and then the use of knives to slit the throats of Adams and McGuinness was, although he wasn't prepared to admit it at the time, impossible to achieve.

“He was bluffing it out, boasting. He knew that his intentions as asserted to police were impossible to achieve.”

Stone hobbled into court yesterday to hear his legal team set out the grounds of appeal.

Judges heard he had put on make-up and dyed his hair before travelling to Stormont.

When wrestled to the ground by guards at the entrance to Parliament Buildings he was cursing, and later made it clear his intention was to assassinate the Sinn Fein duo, the court heard.

But Mr Pownall agreed with an assessment of Stone's actions reportedly made by the PSNI Chief Constable at the time.

He said: “We submit that the opinion, whether expressed by Sir Hugh Orde or not, accurately described the position — a sad attention seeker out of touch with reality.”

A letter addressed to the police chief which Stone lost during the melee was said to reflect his true performance art intentions.

His reasons for not immediately disclosing this motivation was to “milk the situation a little longer”, according to counsel.

Mr Pownall argued that the loyalist was without his walking stick and could not have climbed the stairs or gone along two passageways into the Assembly chamber where his alleged victims were.

“Inevitably he would have had to negotiate the individuals who would have been in the corridors, in particular members of the close protection teams seconded to the MLAs and also tip-staff who were situated at various entrances along the way.

“What occurred, namely the kicking of the flight bag with the incendiary device into the lobby area was not sufficient to find an attempt to murder.”

He insisted there had been no attempt to kill. He further questioned why Stone, if planning to murder, would have paused first at pillars outside Stormont to spray graffiti. His actions had not gone beyond the preparation stage, it was claimed.

But Garry McCrudden, for the Crown, argued that Stone's deeds went further than the preparatory. He said: “The device had been carefully prepared, it had been transported to the scene, it had been taken into the building and the fuse had been ignited.

“The device itself failed to go off. If it had ignited then who's to say where Mr Stone may have got beyond that.”

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Girvan, reserved judgment in the appeal.

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