Human rights group ‘sabotaged’ justice campaign

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New details have emerged about a human rights organisation allegedly set up by an MI5 agent to penetrate and undermine Irish justice campaigns.

Justice Watch Ireland (JWI), founded by Dennis McFadden (pictured, inset) in 2013, is now understood to have been a ruse to spy on and sabotage republican and human rights activism.

McFadden, who was active in both Sinn Féin and Saoradh, encouraged former IRA prisoners, the Guildford Four’s Gerry Conlon and others to become directors and/or guarantors for the organisation.

It is thought that details of their conversations, movements and legal efforts were reported directly back to MI5 by McFadden. He is also accused of subverting campaigns like that for the release of the Craigavon 2, two Armagh men imprisoned for 18 and 25 years as a result of a miscarriage of justice.

A republican ex-prisoner and former Sinn Féin councillor, Angela Nelson, who was convinced to become a director of JWI, told the Sunday Life newspaper: “With hindsight one can look back at a lot of things and deduce that was exactly what was happening at that time — that McFadden set up Justice Watch Ireland to infiltrate and sabotage republican justice campaigns for MI5.”

The Glasgow-born spy and his reputed wife, another former director of the bogus organisation, are now in hiding after McFadden was named as a spy in 2020.

Justice Watch Ireland was established as a limited company but it is believed that MI5 planned for it to become a registered charity supplied by public funding.

While maintaining a cover of respectability, McFadden’s apparent interest lay in attempts by human rights activists to overturn the convictions of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, known as the Craigavon Two, who were falsely convicted of a 2009 Continuity IRA attack.

The campaign was prominently supported by Gerry Conlon, who served 15 years before being released after his false convictions for IRA involvement were overturned.

Ms Nelson recalled how McFadden blocked attempts by her to go on a 12-month speaking tour of Ireland to highlight the Craigavon Two campaign.

McFadden also refused to hand over passwords for key social media accounts and prevented efforts to reach out to Irish America for support, she said.

“He was there during meetings for the Justice for the Craigavon Two campaigns, structures and strategies.

“He was obviously going back to his handlers and telling them where we were coming from, what we had gathered up, who we were approaching, writing to, meeting with and what their answers were.

“At that stage I was meeting every political party — Sinn Féin, SDLP, People Before Profit, the whole lot of them, asking for their support for the campaign.”

Siobhan McConville, wife of Brendan, said the report “confirms the infiltration of MI5 and the sabotage of the Craigavon two campaign. The campaign continues and will do so until this wrongful conviction is overturned.”

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