IRA membership case immersed in legal quagmire
Four west Belfast nationalists facing charges of membership of the Provisional IRA have been named by a court in Belfast -- after almost three months of legal wrangling.
The four facing charges of IRA membership in 1999 are: veteran republican Padraic Wilson; Seamus Finucane, a brother of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane; septuagenarian Agnes McCrory; and Andersonstown woman Briege Wright.
A fifth man, also alleged to have been a member of the IRA, has also been named by the BBC but is believed be the subject of other anonymity restraints.
Wilson, who was the leader of the IRA in Long Kesh Prison in the late 1990s, was said by the court to have an address at the Sinn Fein advice centre in west Belfast.
Judge Fiona Bagnall ruled this week that the four could now be named “as long as the media proceed cautiously”.
It is believed to be the first time reporting restrictions of this kind have been placed on an IRA case.
All four named are charged with (Provisional) IRA membership between 1999 and 2000. They are also accused of arranging, addressing or assisting in the management of a IRA meeting at that time.
There was confusion and debate at the court over the legal basis for making the original ruling, which prevented the media from naming those charged. The BBC opposed that ruling.
The judge had said the media ban was put in place this summer to protect the identity of an alleged victim in the case. However, it is understood the alleged victim immediately refuted this.
In the highly unusual case, which has implications for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, none have been charged formally and none have yet appeared before a court.
Following the court’s surprise reversal yesterday, a lawyer for the four has called for the case to be reviewed.