Belfast Telegraph

Dee Fennell's bid to attend Old Firm refused - Police Scotland 'serious reservations' over Ibrox attendance

By John Cassidy

Prominent north Belfast dissident republican Damien 'Dee' Fennell has been refused permission to go to the Old Firm Rangers versus Celtic match this weekend.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Police Scotland were opposed to Fennell travelling to Glasgow for the Scottish Premiership midday clash on Saturday over fears his presence could result in "public disorder''.

Earlier this week, the 35-year-old, of Torrens Avenue, stood trial at the same court on three terrorist-related offences relating to dissident republican Easter Rising event held on April 5 2015, at St Coleman's Cemetery in Lurgan.

He denied encouraging terrorism, inviting support for a proscribed organisation, namely the Irish Republican Army and encouraging support for the IRA.

The rally included a speech given by Fennell who was introduced to the crowd as a "dedicated republican activist''. His speech was later uploaded onto the Irish Republican Prisoner Welfare Association's YouTube and Facebook pages.

Following the day long non-jury Diplock trial, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC reserved judgement in the case and said he would give his ruling as "soon as is practical''.

Fennell, a father-of-six, was back in court on Friday to have his bail conditions varied so he could attend the Old Firm game.

A prosecution barrister told Judge Miller a 'silver commander' with Police Scotland had been made aware that Fennell wished to travel to Glasgow for the game.

"The superintendent has expressed the view that there would be a risk to public disorder in Scotland where he to attend the match.

"He has also expressed the view that if Mr Fennell travelled to the game in any event, there could be further disorder if he was recognised.

"So Police Scotland's objections to Mr Fennell's attendance at the game are firstly the possibility for disorder and secondly the possibility for further offences,'' added the prosecution barrister.

Defence solicitor Darragh Mackin said Fennell had attended previous Cliftonville versus Linfield matches without resulting disorder.

He argued Fennell was prepared to give Police Scotland details of his travel arrangements from Belfast to Glasgow and was also prepared to sign at a police station once he arrived in Glasgow.

Mr Mackin added that that Fennell had no previous involvement in "football violence or disorderly behaviour of that nature''.

Judge Miller told the court: "We all live in the real world and we are fully aware that the Old firm game is always a highly emotive occasion.

"Police Scotland have worked over the years, as we have seen, to reduce these tensions but these tensions remain.

"I have to say that if the commander on the ground at the match has serious reservations particularly bearing in mind what I have said, I have great difficulties in acceding to this application. It very difficult for me to go against the view of the commander on the ground.

"Mr Fennell is fully aware that these Old Firm games take place several times a year. It is not as if he is giving up on a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"Given the timing of this application, and given the attending publicity to his trial, I am afraid I am going to refuse this application,'' added Judge Miller.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph