A ‘Real IRA’ bomb trial was terminated abruptly on Monday following unchallenged accusations that an informer lies at the heart of the case.
Sinn Féin, the DUP and SDLP last night called for an investigation into the trial’s collapse and allegations that prominent Ballymena ‘dissident’ Paddy Murray helped entrap local four republicans while he was secretly working for the PSNI police.
The case related to the arrest of the four men at a house in Ballymena, County Antrim, in February 2005, where three incendiary devices were found.
Murray is understood to have come under suspicion within the Real IRA after he escaped charges. Along with the other four, his DNA is alleged to have been detected on one or more of the devices recovered from the scene.
But on Monday, the CPS dropped all charges for the four due to the emergence of “new information”, although it refused to elaborate.
The abandonment of the trial has led to increased claims that Murray is being protected from prosecution as a Crown-force agent.
Difficulties first arose in the prosecution case when the defence legal team sought disclosure of Crown intelligence material, which the lawyers said would expose Murray as an informer.
Despite Mr Murray not being charged, prosecution barristers took the highly unusual move of seeking a public interest immunity certificate to avoid revealing their information on Murray.
The affair is reminiscent of the collapse of the so-called Stormontgate case two years ago, in which high-ranking Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson was alleged to have been at the heart of an “IRA spy ring” at the Belfast Assembly.
After the high-profile raids and arrests -- which collapsed power-sharing at the time -- the prosecutions were abandoned, and Donaldson was subsequently revealed to have been working as a British agent.
Defence solicitor Peter Corrigan last night demanded a public inquiry into the latest events.
“This is a very serious case of a security force agent being allowed to act as an agent provocateur to create sectarian violence,” he said.
“These are very serious charges that a security force agent was actively encouraging others to take part in a bombing campaign.
“I want a public inquiry to investigate why a security force agent appears to have been deliberately acting to destabilise the peace process which they are supposed to be protecting.”
Sinn Féin, the DUP and SDLP have called for an investigation into the collapse of the trial.
The DUP’s Ian Paisley jnr expressed “alarm” at the case’s outcome.
“It’s extremely worrying that here we have another attempt to try and get republicans into the dock and it collapses for no apparent reason,” he said.
The SDLP’s Dolores Kelly also called for an explanation.
“They are telling people it was in the public interest to drop these charges but I want to know whose interests are being protected,” she said.
Sinn Féin’s Daithi McKay said: “Clearly there is something wrong with this case and the people of Ballymena deserve answers.
“In recent years certain people made concerted efforts to raise sectarian tensions in Ballymena.
“It seems clear now that those efforts were being deliberately orchestrated by the securocrats to try and destabilise the peace process.”
In a separate development, Murray has agreed a deal with prosecutors meaning that he will serve eight months stemming from an earlier incident. Murray is due to be sentenced next month on charges of kidnap and assault in September 2005.