Belfast Telegraph

15 arrested after paramilitary display at dissident republican's funeral

Fifteen men have been arrested after a paramilitary display at the funeral of a dissident republican in Northern Ireland.

Police took action after a number of men wearing berets, dark glasses and paramilitary-style combat fatigues marched ahead of the cortege for murder victim Michael Barr.

Barr, 35, from Strabane in Co Tyrone, was shot dead in a Dublin bar last month.

He was allegedly a member of the renegade dissident group that calls itself the new IRA.

He was hit up to three times when two gunmen burst into the Sunset House pub in the Summerhill area of the city.

His murder is believed to have been linked to a bloody underworld power struggle between the Kinahan and Hutch families and their associates.

There are conflicting reports as to whether Barr was the intended target or if a member of the Hutch family was in the pub at the time.

Thursday's arrests came weeks after police faced criticism for not intervening during similar paramilitary displays at a number of republican events in Northern Ireland to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising against British rule in Dublin.

Police Service of Northern Ireland District Commander Superintendent Mark McEwan denied his officers were responding to political pressure.

"We don't respond to political pressure, we are cognisant of it," he said.

He said the operation was "appropriate, necessary and proportionate".

Mr McEwan said police were mindful that a funeral was taking place and stressed the arrests were made away from the church.

"What we saw this morning on the streets of Strabane and in the local area is what appears, to all intents and purposes, to be a paramilitary display," he said.

"As a result of that in the subsequent policing operation we have arrested 15 men in connection with suspected terrorist-related offences."

He added: "The scenes that we have seen today are not unique, but the public do expect us to act in these cases."

Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral mass at St Mary's Church in the Melmount area of Strabane on Thursday morning.

Black flags were also placed on lampposts along part of the cortege's route while a black beret and gloves were placed on top of the coffin which had been draped in an Irish tricolour.

There was a significant police presence on both sides of the border ahead of the funeral.

The men have been detained under the Terrorism Act.

At the time of his death Barr was due to be sentenced at the Special Criminal Court for handling stolen electrical equipment.

He had pleaded guilty to the offence at Finnstown House Hotel on July 18 2014 where a bomb had been found in a car two months earlier.

Republican supporters described him as "ex-Republican POW".

He had lived in Poppintree in the Ballymun area and also in Finglas before moving to the north inner city since taking over the Sunset House pub some time in the last year.

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