24 January 2008 Edition
Trial collapses over role of 'British agent'
By Laura Friel
SINN FÉIN has called for an independent, public, judicial inquiry after the outing of a British agent at the heart of ‘Real IRA’ activities in County Antrim. Faced with the probable exposure of the agent, the British state jettisoned a case against four people arrested after the discovery of incendiary bombs during a house raid in Ballymena in 2005.
North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay said that suspicions had been raised after Paddy Murray, avoided being charged following an explosive find, linked to the RIRA, that led to four arrests: Pearse O’Neill, Christopher Smiley, Liam Lyness and Simone Sloan all faced charges of possession.
But the case collapsed after prosecution lawyers withdrew all charges despite the fact that there was substantial forensic evidence against the four. Two of the defendants were caught with incendiaries hidden down their trousers.
Prosecution barrister Gordon Kerr told a Belfast court that a decision had been taken to drop all charges following the emergence of new information. The prosecution did not disclose the nature of the new information. Following the hearing, the Public Prosecution Service refused to comment amid allegations of collusion.
The abandonment of the trial is understood to centre on claims that Paddy Murray was being protected from prosecution because he was a state agent.
The Public Prosecution Service had already admitted the incendiary bombs had been supplied by Murray just hours before the gang was ‘caught red handed’. Murray’s DNA is alleged to have been detected on two of the three devices discovered.
But when defence lawyers requested full disclosure of Murray’s role as a possible British agent, the PPS immediately sought Public Interest Immunity Certificates, believed to be in a bid to prevent the identification of a British agent in court.
Gagging orders require the signature of the British Secretary of State and in the past have been used to thwart investigations into allegations of state collusion.
A hearing to determine if Paddy Murray was an alleged agent was due to have taken place next month but it has been abandoned following the collapse of the case.
Trial defence lawyer Peter Corrigan said it is “clear to anyone who studies the case that the trial fell apart once we sought disclosure of this individual’s role as a security force agent”.
Murray is due to be sentenced in February in relation to a separate incident involving an attack on an Antrim man, Kevin Gillen, in September 2005.
Kidnap charges against Murray and two accomplices were dropped after the gang pleaded guilty to assault. Suspicions regarding Murray’s status as an agent emerged after he was taken into custody despite being granted bail.
Murray is expected to be sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for the assault but with remission and time on remand will be released within eight months. Despite denying his role as an agent, it is likely Murray will serve his sentence in solitary confinement for his own protection.
Commenting, Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay said Paddy Murray had been at the forefront of stirring up sectarian tensions in Ballymena as well as attempts to undermine Sinn Féin and the Peace Process.
“The question people here in Ballymena are asking is, ‘Who was ordering him to do this and why?’
“Clearly there are still securocrats working to an anti-Sinn Féin and anti-Peace Process agenda and are using micro-groups to do so.”
McKay said there is “clearly something wrong with the case” and backed calls by nationalist and unionist politicians for an investigation. “People deserve answers.”
The efforts of British securocrats to use the ‘RIRA’ micro group to undermine Sinn Féin and the Peace Process were dramatically exposed this week when the British state abandoned the case against four people arrested with bombs in Ballymena in 2005. It is understood that the abandonment of the trial centres on claims that Paddy Murray was a British agent.