A man presenting himself as a lifelong republican activist, Dennis McFadden, has been accused of working with British military intelligence to help imprison leading members of Saoradh.
A court at Laganside in Belfast was told today that MI5 had gathered video and audio recordings of two meetings believed to have been organised by McFadden. The PSNI said over 500 members were involved with MI5 in ‘Operation Arbacia’ with the goal of building cases against members of the Saoradh leadership and other high-profile republicans.
Eight have now been charged following a wave of raids and arrests in seven counties around Ireland in the last week.
Among those in court today were Saoradh vice-chairperson Mandy Duffy, Saoradh Derry chairperson Joe Barr, Executive member Sharon Jordan, Derry-based Saoradh activist Gary Hayden, as well as two well-known republicans who have previously suffered lengthy periods of internment, Kevin Barry Murphy and Damien McLaughlin.
The PSNI has claimed that the meetings were of the New IRA’s ‘General Army Executive’ and were attended by the organisation’s ‘Chief of Staff and Chairman’.
McFadden is himself a member of the Saoradh Executive, holding the post of Resource Officer, and was closely involved in the party’s financial affairs. It is alleged he drove some of the accused to the two meetings at separate properties in County Tyrone, which he had rented in advance and which were bugged by MI5.
One defence lawyer asked plainly if he was “employed as an agent provocateur in order to entrap my client?”. A lawyer for another of those charged with various IRA offences asked a member of the PSNI: “Did an MI5 agent organise and finance these meetings?”
Two other men appeared in court on Saturday, Saoradh members Shea Reynolds from Lurgan and Paddy McDaid from Derry. All eight have been remanded without bail.
The court heard today that a file being prepared for Crown Prosecutors could take until next year to complete. There are fears among Saoradh activists that the operation and related media coverage is being used as a smokescreen for a new wave of internments by remand.
McFadden, originally from Scotland and a former Sinn Féin activist in Belfast, is understood to have now fled his home outside the city. The contents of his home were reported to have been packed into a removal van last week.
The apparent exposure of a leading double agent within Saoradh recalls December 2005, when top Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson was exposed as an MI5 agent. After four months living in isolation, he was shot dead in an attack claimed by another breakaway IRA group, the Real IRA.