‘Agent provocateur’ involved in New IRA probe, lawyer contends

An “agent provocateur” was involved in a major police investigation into dissident republican group the New IRA, a court has heard.

Six people appeared before Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Monday facing a number of charges, including directing terrorism.

Four men and two women are charged with membership of a proscribed organisation – the IRA – directing a terrorist organisation, and preparation of terrorist acts, attending meetings in Omagh and Sixmiletown.

The court heard the arrests came following a significant police operation which involved 500 officers, with both the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and MI5 taking part.

The co-accused are Sharon Jordan, 45, of Cappagh Road in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, Kevin Barry Murphy, 49, of Altowen Park, Coalisland, Co Tyrone, Damien McLaughlin, 44, of Kilmascally Road, Dungannon, Amanda McCabe, 49, of Ailsbury Gardens in Lurgan, Co Armagh, Gary Hayden, 48, of Tyrconnell Street in Londonderry and Joseph Barr, 32, of Cecilia’s Walk in Londonderry.

They appeared at court in pairs via videolink from Musgrave Street police station to allow for social distancing.

None responded when the charges were put to them.

A PSNI chief inspector said he believed he could connect the accused to the charges.

One of the defence lawyers raised a claim around the “role of an agent provocateur” who attended meetings in Omagh and Sixmiletown.

He added: “There’s a lot more to this case than simply the surveillance that was recorded at both properties and the transcripts”.

Another defence lawyer put to the court: “Did an MI5 agent organise and finance these meetings?

“I’m asking a legitimate question at the first available opportunity.”

District Judge Fiona Bagnall said the hearing was simply to deal with connection and “can only look at it in those terms at this point in time”.

Judge Bagnall said: “On the basis of what I’ve heard… I am satisfied it’s sufficient to connect, of course I am mindful that the bar is relatively low at this stage but there is certainly sufficient for the purposes that I have to meet to connect.”

No bail applications were made on Monday.

Bail applications for McCabe and Jordan are expected to be heard on September 3, while the four men will remain in custody until the next hearing of the case on September 18.

On Saturday Shea Reynolds, 26, of Belvedere Manor in Lurgan, Co Armagh, and Patrick McDaid, 50, of Magowan Park in Londonderry appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court via video-link on charges which included directing terrorism.

There was no application for bail and they were remanded in custody until September 18.

In total, 10 people have been arrested as part of Operation Arbacia, a major PSNI investigation into the New IRA.