Prominent republican to stand trial on IRA membership

July 7, 2014

A prominent south Armagh republican is to stand trial accused of membership of the IRA.

Sean Hughes from Dromintee, and his co-accused Belfast man, Padraic Wilson, appeared before Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Friday where they learned they were to be charged with membership of a proscribed organization and addressing a meeting to encourage support for the IRA.

The charges stem from an “internal investigation” by the IRA after the murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast nine years ago.

It was reported that known IRA members were suspected of being involved in McCartney’s killing when he was stabbed to death outside Magennis’s bar in January 2005.

In the months following the murder, the victim’s sisters led a high-profile campaign for justice for their brother and claimed those involved were being protected.

Hughes and Wilson are not charged in connection with the murder, but with events during the McCartney sisters’ campaign.

It emerged that the pair attended two meetings with the sisters in the months following the murder, during which they allegedly claimed to represent the IRA army council.

Catherine McCartney told the court they were informed by the two men that the IRA were “interviewing the witnesses and members of the IRA who were there that night in the bar.”

Both she, and another sister Paula Arnold, said the men introduced themselves as Padraic and Sean, and did not reveal their surnames.  It was only years later, through newspapers and internet research, that they claimed to have discovered their identities and gone to police.

The judge at Friday’s hearing ruled that a prima facie case to answer was established against both accused men and they were returned for a Crown Court trial on a date yet to be fixed.

The pair were released on bail until the hearing begins.