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Dissident charged over Lyra insult parade in Newry

New IRA-linked march held just 24 hours after writer's callous killing

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Stephen Murney Easter 2019 Newry

Stephen Murney Easter 2019 Newry

Lyra McKee

Lyra McKee

Anthony Coyle

Anthony Coyle

Stephen Murney Easter 2019 Newry

Stephen Murney Easter 2019 Newry

Stephen Murney Easter 2019 Newry

A high-profile dissident republican is being prosecuted over his alleged role in a New IRA-linked parade that took place the day after the gang murdered young author Lyra McKee.

Stephen Murney - who once beat a collecting information for terrorists rap - is one of seven men and women in court over the illegal Easter Saturday event.

Organised by the New IRA's political wing Saoradh, it went ahead in Newry just 24 hours after the paramilitary group gunned down Lyra in Derry in April 2019.

Lyra McKee

This was despite police warning that the event at St Mary's Cemetery was unlawful because the Parades Commission had not been informed, and others called for it to be cancelled as a mark of respect to the slain 29-year-old journalist.

Ignoring their pleas Saoradh went ahead with the parade to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Murney was pictured wearing a black beret and carrying a tricolour at the head of the procession which ended with wreath laying at republican graves.

The 36-year-old now finds himself in court for his role in the event, charged with taking part in an unlawful parade.

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Stephen Murney Easter 2019 Newry

Stephen Murney Easter 2019 Newry

Stephen Murney Easter 2019 Newry

So too does leading Saoradh Newry member Anthony Coyle (57), who is a community ambassador for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

He closed the Easter commemoration, saying: "Your attendance has ensured that we have made a dignified and fitting tribute to our IRA patriot dead despite crown force provocation."

Also charged with taking part in the unlawful parade are Michael Doran (63), from John F Kennedy Park in Bessbrook, and Aidean Hynes (39) with an address at Mourne View Park, Newry.

So too are Cliodhna McCool (27) from Derrybeg Terrace, Newry, Niall Reynolds (29) with an address at Woodside Green in Portadown, and Oliver White (45) from Barley Mews in Newry.

The case was briefly mentioned at Newry Magistrates Court last week, and is listed again for an update next month.

The prosecution of the Saoradh members comes against the backdrop of the New IRA-supporting political party going on a recruitment drive throughout Newry.

Locals say this is led by Anthony Coyle and Stephen Murney, who were central to the opening of its office on St Mary's Street in the city in March.

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Anthony Coyle

Anthony Coyle

Anthony Coyle

The pair are also known to have been at loggerheads with Sinn Fein members, accusing them of removing a Saoradh Easter tribute left at the grave of IRA members.

This has been denied by mainstream republicans who accused the dissident grouping of "trying to make trouble".

Murney, who is effectively the face of Soaradh in Newry, was previously in the headlines when he was acquitted in court of collecting information for terrorists.

He spent 14 months on remand in the Roe House dissident wing of Maghaberry Prison before a court found him not guilty.

Murney had been accused to taking photographs of serving police officers and sharing them on social media, but he successfully argued that he was only doing this to highlight what he said was PSNI oppression and that he had no sinister motive.

Since then he was gone on to forge close relationships with several prominent dissident republicans including the New IRA's leader in Derry, Thomas Mellon. Murney, who often visits the city, was photographed on one of these trips with a group of dissidents including the teen killer of Lyra McKee.

There is no suggestion he has any knowledge of the journalist's murder by the New IRA, or any of its other crimes.

When challenged about why Saoradh was going to stage an unlawful parade in Newry the day after Lyra's killing, Murney said: "We will pay tribute to all those who have fought, died and assisted in the cause of Irish freedom."

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph