A new IRA chief took to the streets yesterday in an act of defiance against recent police raids targeting the gang's leadership.
The gang's Derry boss Thomas Mellon - who is on a 10-year MI5 terror watchlist - was among a group of high-profile dissidents who gathered near the Bogside for a protest in support of its prisoners. Others included convicted bomber Christy O'Kane.
The demonstration, and a wreath- laying at the city cemetery, came after the New IRA's political wing Saoradh said it will go ahead with a similar event planned for tomorrow afternoon. It had faced calls to cancel because of coronavirus concerns.
Mellon is understood to have pushed for the Easter Monday wreath-laying ceremony taking place, demanding a show of unity ahead of the second anniversary of the New IRA murder of journalist Lyra McKee.
He had previously accused the gang's leaders outside of Derry of turning him into a scapegoat for the killing, and offering no support.
The recent charging of Mellon's second-in-command Kieran McCool (52) with bombmaking has also led to his insistence that the wreath-laying take place.
"Tommy sees this as a way of putting on a show of unity after a number of serious setbacks," explained a republican source.
These "setbacks" include McCool's arrest, the charging of 10 republicans linked to meetings of the New IRA's leadership which were bugged by MI5, and the discovery of the gun used to kill Lyra McKee.
Two Derry dissidents, Paul McIntyre (53) and Christopher Gillen (40), are facing charges connected to the journalist's death.
But the list of suspects involved stretches to 17 according to Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, who tells today's Sunday Independent: "There was a chain of events involving a significant number of individuals, including members of the New IRA, to make that weapon available.
"The killer is not safe in any shape or form and nor are any of the other individuals who were involved in the attack that night. I hope they think that they've got away with the murder of Lyra McKee. But the truth is very far from that.
"If I get an opportunity to bring a gunman or members of the New IRA to justice for Lyra McKee's murder, I absolutely intend to do so."
Within a year of Lyra's murder her heartbroken mother Joan Lawrie-McKee, who she cared for, passed away. The journalist's sister Nicola Corner McKee is in no doubt that her mother died of a broken heart.
"She (Joan) used to say to me, 'How am I going to do this - how am I going to live without Lyra?' In the end, she couldn't," Nicola told the Sunday Independent.
"Mummy's heart was the strongest organ she had, and it was her heart that stopped because it was broken. I know they are now together."
The identity of Lyra McKee's killer, who remains active in dissident republicanism, is well known. He was only 18-years-old when he shot his victim in the head during a night of rioting in the Creggan estate.
Within days of the murder he was moved by the New IRA to a safe house in Donegal, but returned to Derry when his girlfriend discovered she was pregnant. Their baby son was born some months later.
Meanwhile, co-ordinated PSNI raids in the past week at properties in Lurgan, Omagh, Castlederg and Irvinestown were aimed at disrupting Continuity IRA Easter wreath-laying ceremonies this weekend. Previous events in Lurgan have seen shots fired by the gang and republicans clashing with police.
At Milltown Cemetery in Belfast Saoradh also held a wreath-laying ceremony yesterday. Less than two dozen supporters were in attendance.