Seventeen before courts over March 2018 Easter parade
More than a dozen dissident republicans have been fined £200 for wearing paramilitary uniforms in a New IRA-supporting parade.
Among them is Pete Cavanagh, who is charged with the murder of Lyra McKee, and Jude Macrory and Paddy Gallagher, who are accused of rioting on the night the journalist was shot dead.
Also convicted at Belfast Magistrates’ Court last Tuesday was Gary ‘Musky’ Hayden, who is currently behind bars on a New IRA directing terrorism rap, and William McDonnell, who was previously jailed for possessing New IRA imitation firearms and balaclavas.
A total of 17 men and women from Derry and Strabane entered not guilty pleas to charges of wearing clothing to arouse suspicion of being a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation. They were convicted after a contest.
The defendants were pictured taking part in a Saoradh-organised Easter parade in west Belfast in March 2018.
The march, billed as the ‘unfinished revolution’, came during a period of intense activity by the terror gang, which was targeting PSNI and prison officers for murder.
Participants wore berets, sunglasses, scarves, military clothing and black gloves as they paraded from Divis Street to Milltown Cemetery’s republican plot.
The convictions are the latest blow to the New IRA, which has been on the ropes since Derry man Billy Elliott, who was on the fringes of the republican group, was exposed as an informant.
He fled the city earlier this month after admitting to working for the PSNI’s C3 intelligence unit, formerly known as Special Branch.
Elliott was in a relationship with a female associate of prominent dissident Jude Macrory, and exploited this to pass on information on the 24-year-old to his handlers.
Macrory was arrested in connection with a 2019 New IRA car bomb attack on Bishop Street courthouse in Derry — he was later freed without charge — and had his home searched in the days before police found the gun used to kill Ms McKee.
A former chairman of Saoradh in the city, he is understood to believe that information provided by Elliott led to his arrest on these matters.
“The New IRA in Derry is in disarray. Hardly a week goes by without a f**k-up,” a republican source in the city told Sunday Life.
“Billy Elliott’s exposure has really affected morale, but he was a low-level, £10 tout. People are now asking, ‘Who are the bigger ones?’.”
New IRA chiefs know that higher-level informants exist in the terror gang — a fact highlighted by the conviction of Niall Sheerin (29) for possessing the gun used to kill Ms McKee.
Police found the weapon buried in woodland in an intelligence-led operation.
Sheerin will be sentenced on June 10 for having the Hammerli pistol.
Our source added: “Niall knows someone touted on him. Thomas Mellon [New IRA Derry leader] has promised an investigation, but it’s going nowhere.
“The New IRA is trying to blame the gun find on Billy Elliott, but everyone knows he wouldn’t have had that level of knowledge.”
Insiders say the bad feeling has been compounded by the continued isolation of Derry republican Joe Barr. The 33-year-old is facing New IRA directing terrorism charges, but was put off the dissident wing at Maghaberry Prison for renouncing violence.
Our source said: “Joe is well got among republicans. There is a lot of bad feeling about him being held among the criminals.
“Mellon has said it’s a matter for the New IRA leadership in the jail, but that’s a cop-out because if he pushed for Joe to get back on Roe House, it would happen.”
Fined £200 for taking part in the 2018 New IRA-linked Easter parade through west Belfast were: Lorna Brady (48), Mark Canning (45), Conor Casey (50), Peter Cavanagh (33), Denis Devlin (57), Patrick Doherty (49), Sherilyne Feeney (27), Patrick Gallagher (30), Paul McCallion (51), Jude Macrory (24), Emmett McDermott (46), William McDonnell (35), Emmet McSheffrey (22) and Barry Millar (37).
Tiarnan McFadden (24) was fined £100, while Caolan Brogan (22) and Gary Hayden (50) have yet to be sentenced.