DISSIDENT republican Dee Fennell has left Saoradh, the political wing of the New IRA, for “personal reasons”.
Fennell was among 12 founder members of the party in 2016 but reportedly “stepped aside” due to personal matters recently.
In an interview with The Guardian he confirmed he had left the party but emphasised that “his views have not changed and that he is still active in the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA) which supports Saoradh or New IRA prisoners.”
In the interview the north Belfast republican also denied Saoradh had in any way been involved in the 2019 killing of the journalist during rioting in the Creggan area of Londonderry in April 2019.
He said: “Saoradh played no part in Lyra McKee’s death.”
Addressing the fact he spoke at Saoradh’s Easter commemoration in Dublin just 48-hours after Lyra was shot dead, he said: “I felt it was important for me personally to say that was wrong, that whoever had done it should admit it and take responsibility for doing it organisationally and that they should say sorry.”
Asked if McKee’s death had changed anything for Saoradh, Fennell responded: “It sounds harsh but no it didn’t change Saoradh’s strategy.
“We didn’t lose a single member over it. Our recruitment levels have went up and I think that was because the republican base were able to differentiate between who was responsible and who wasn’t.”
Fennell (38) joined the youth wing of Sinn Féin in 1997, but left in 2007 when the party accepted the legitimacy of the PSNI.
In April 2015 he was the speaker at an Easter commemoration in north Armagh and in his speech, which was posted online, he stated that armed struggle was legitimate.
“It isn’t enough to shout up the IRA, the important thing is to join the IRA,” he told the crowd.
He was charged with encouraging terrorism and inviting support for the IRA before being remanded in Maghaberry Prison for two months. He was subsequently released with a ban on public speaking and posting online.
Fennell was acquitted of the charges in December 2017 on the grounds that he was entitled to free speech when expressing his personal opinion.