New IRA believe ‘informer’ was recruited to provide details on Lyra riot accused
A dissident republican arrested in connection with a New IRA bombing was the target of a PSNI spy operation that led to a suspected police informant being unmasked.
Billy Elliott was taken into protective custody after being accused by the terror gang of passing on information to police.
Before fleeing, he had been in a relationship with a woman close to Jude Macrory — a prominent Derry dissident who was questioned by police in connection with the New IRA’s 2019 Bishop Street courthouse bomb. He was later freed without charge.
The 24-year-old is currently before the courts charged with rioting on the night that journalist Lyra McKee was murdered in April 2019.
Macrory, who is close to New IRA leader Thomas Mellon, has been a key target for anti-terror police in Derry.
Republicans believe alleged informant Elliott was recruited by the PSNI’s C3 unit — formerly known as Special Branch — to give information on the young dissident.
“He would have been keeping the cops up to date on Macrory’s movements, who he was associating with and what he was bringing into the house,” said a source.
“It would have been kitchen table tittle-tattle, nothing of any real substance.
“Elliott was on the fringes of the New IRA, one of the guys who showed up at street protests and parades. The information he had would have been really low-grade.”
Intelligence from the suspected agent is understood to have led to June 2020 searches of Macrory’s home in the Creggan estate.
Days later, the PSNI uncovered the Hammerli pistol used to kill Lyra McKee hidden inside a hole in woodland near the Ballymagroarty area. New IRA quartermaster Niall Sheerin (29) admitted possessing the weapon last week and will be sentenced later this year.
The search warrant issued for Macrory’s home, which was signed three months earlier, said there were reasonable grounds to believe that “certain items” were located at the premises.
These, according to the document, included “items or documents pertaining to a proscribed organisation, mobile phones, media storage device and computers”.
New IRA leaders also believe Billy Elliott provided information to the PSNI that led to Macrory being arrested in connection with the January 2019 Bishop Street courthouse car bomb.
Seven unsuspecting teenagers walked past the device just minutes before it exploded in a ball of flames, sending red-hot shrapnel flying.
After being freed without charge, Macrory took to social media to warn “the animal will always lash out once it’s wounded”. Describing the bombers as “revolutionaries”, he added: “To you who sit on the fence or side with the oppressor, hang your head in shame.
“Do not be disturbed by harassment, intimidation or attempts to thwart the republican socialist struggle.
“These are only symptoms of a growing movement. As one of our detained activists said with a smile in the face of pure hatred — ‘Up the f*****g Republic’.”
Macrory has also used social media to pledge his support to Paul McIntyre — one of the dissident republicans charged with murdering Lyra McKee.
Following the 54-year-old’s first court appearance, he wrote: “I stood with Mackers on many occasions highlighting various prisoner issues and miscarriages of justice, and I’ll continue to stand with him and his family now.”
The New IRA’s unmasking of Billy Elliott came just days after Sheerin pleaded guilty to having the gun used to kill Lyra McKee. Republicans have questioned the timing, believing that the alleged agent was exposed to divert attention away from how the gun was located so easily by police.
One said: “Billy Elliott was thrown to the wolves to protect touts higher up in the New IRA who gave up the Lyra McKee gun. The timing stinks.
“A blind man could see this was done to stop its members questioning how easily the cops found that weapon.”
There are also suspicions that Elliott was singled out by MI5 double agent Dennis McFadden as someone who could be easily ‘turned’ by the security services.
The super-spy bugged two leadership meetings of the New IRA, leading to nine prominent dissident republicans being charged with directing terrorism.
In a statement released after Elliott’s exposure, the Macrory family said: “Billy disappeared from the family home several days ago after making it known to a family member that he was being pressurised by the British security services.
“It now appears he was coerced into collaborating with these individuals.
“As many will know, Billy suffered from long-standing mental health problems, addiction issues and illiteracy.
“In outlining these facts, we do not wish to give the impression that they in any way excuse his behaviour. There is no excuse for the betrayal of your family and community.”
The New IRA’s political wing Saoradh first identified Elliott as an agent and pictured him on its website. He has since been warned that he will murdered if he returns to Derry.
Saoradh said: “A local man, who we now name as Billy Elliott, was working for British state services. This man was used to target local republicans in the Creggan area of Derry.
“Saoradh can confirm that Billy Elliott was not a member of the party, but was on the periphery of some activism by local members. We believe that Elliott is with his handlers in England. Billy Elliott has now thrown away his life, and for what?”