New IRA chief Thomas Mellon did not attend meetings of the terror gang bugged by MI5 because he was in a huff over his treatment following the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.
His petulance appears to have saved him, with Derry dissidents Gary Hayden (48) and Joe Barr (32) charged with taking part in the summits organised by double agent Dennis McFadden.
Both men are behind bars accused of directing terrorism alongside seven other alleged New IRA members.
Republican sources say that Mellon stayed away from the February and July meetings at rental properties in Co Tyrone because he was at loggerheads with the leadership.
"Mellon accused the leadership of hanging him out to dry after the murder of Lyra McKee," revealed a New IRA insider.
"Not a single member from outside Derry came to stand with him in the months that followed the killing, or when he was in court to be convicted of taking part in an illegal parade.
"He had asked others from Belfast, Armagh and Tyrone to come up and show their support, but they refused. They said they didn't want to be linked to the Lyra McKee shooting."
A furious Mellon accused other New IRA units of abandoning Derry and allowing the media to turn him into a dissident bogeyman who would be forever associated with the writer's killing.
"He took a massive huff and refused to attend leadership meetings, which has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him because it's meant he wasn't entrapped by MI5," added the insider.
"Mellon even quit the New IRA for a period of time but was encouraged to come back on board when the organisation realised the whole Derry unit would leave with him."
In an effort to appease Mellon, members of Saoradh - the New IRA's political wing - from outside Derry attended a white-line picket he organised in the Bogside last weekend.
Some were seen alongside him holding posters in support of dissident republican inmates in Maghaberry Prison.
Mellon had been vocal in his criticism of those New IRA members closest to double agent Denis McFadden, whose deceit has led to the arrest of nine of his pals, labelling them "barstool republicans".
However, its political party Saoradh has attempted to play down any internal rift, saying: "Despite claims to the contrary in the gutter press since an MI5-led intesification of attacks against the party, Saoradh remains cohesive, disciplined and dedicated.
"Put simply we are here to stay."