Milltown cemetery killer Michael Stone has claimed his attack on Stormont was actually a “performance artistic protest” and he did not intend to kill or hurt anyone.
Giving evidence at Belfast Crown Court on his own behalf, Stone, dressed in denim jacket, white T-shirt and jeans, further claimed his ‘protest' was a “comic parody” and was intended to “put a proverbial rocket up the backsides” of the politicians.
“I'm destroying the iconography of Michael Stone loyalist hero,” declared Stone, “it's a comic parody of my former self. I would rather be remembered as an eccentric artist that got it wrong in performance art than my past when I did some terrible things.”
Stone, of no fixed address, denies attempting to murder Sinn Fein MLA's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness as well as 12 other charges of possessing nail and pipe bombs with intent to endanger life, possessing three knives, an axe and a garotte, having an imitation firearm with intent to commit an offence.
He told defence QC Orlando Pownall he did not intend to harm anyone, let alone Mr McGuinness, as “he would be the last man I would target because he was a security force asset”.
The softly spoken Stone also told the lawyer that each of the items he had with him in the “performance protest” he had been planning for months, even down to the bird-shaped pair of scissors and poppy badge on his jacket collar, had their own symbolic significance and the letters he sent out to two journalists was a “script” of what was to happen.
At the beginning of his examination, Stone told his lawyer how he had been a member of loyalist paramilitaries since he was 16, had never given evidence before and was suffering from a disability that would force him to use a wheelchair in “five or six years”.
He described how, as a prisoner in Long Kesh, he was trained in the use of improvised bombs and firearms and added that since he was released in 2000 as part of the Good Friday Agreement, had left terrorism behind.
Stone told Mr Pownall that he “fully supported” the peace process and devolution, and having described himself as a “very political person”, said he only came up with the plan of “performance art work” six weeks beforehand.
He claimed he was anxious about the political vacuum being caused by Sinn Fein and the DUP, fearing the impasse could cause a “return to the bad old days”.
Asked what his intentions had been that day, Stone claimed his plan was to daub political graffiti on the walls of the building, to leave the nail bombs, which he called “props”, at the base of each column and to use the “flash bang” device to “clear the building”.
He said he viewed the stance by the two parties as “rank hypocrisy” and wanted to “more or less put a proverbial rocket up their backsides”.
Mr Pownall put to Stone if he had intended to hurt or injure anyone and was told simply “no”, and when asked what he had hoped to achieve in the days after the incident, Stone said he wanted the politicians to ask “why?”
“Why has a man that signed up to the Anglo-Irish, sorry, Good Friday Agreement that when released for a year, promoted peace, why has he suddenly done the opposite?” Stone told the court.
He went on to tell the lawyer that he could have made the pipe bombs out of metal if he had chosen to, and could have used a real gun instead of an imitation.
Stone claimed that in the actual construction of the devices, he made them so the fuses were not able to light and put nails of various sizes into them as symbolism for “nailing the truth”.
He also told the court that before heading to Stormont, he had soaked the bag in water and had gone further in that if it had not been raining, he had a bottle of water with him to douse the bag again so the fuses would not light.
On the issue of symbolism, he claimed that almost everything he had with him had it's own symbolism, including a pair of scissors in a bird shape, intended as a “begrudging” symbol of Irish republicanism rising from the flames.
With his solicitor Paul McNicholl holding up a large canvas oil painting, Stone described how since his arrest on November 24 2006, he had painted an impression of how his protest graffiti would have looked like had he not been disturbed by security.
Mr Pownall took Stone through each of the charges and he maintained he had not intended to kill or hurt anyone, and the alleged devices were “props” and “part of the installation”.
Today, Stone faces cross-examination by prosecuting QC Charles Adair.
The trial continues.