NewsCrime Desk

Ex-Celtic star snapped with Real IRA

From left: Anthony Stokes, Aaron Nealis, Vinnie Ryan and Alan Ryan
From left: Anthony Stokes, Aaron Nealis, Vinnie Ryan and Alan Ryan

THIS is Irish international footballer Anthony Stokes enjoying a drink on holidays with Real IRA gang leader Alan Ryan.

The former Celtic striker, who currently plays for Blackburn Rovers, pleaded guilty to a nightclub assault at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this week.

The 27-year-old admitted to assault and causing harm to Elvis impersonator Anthony Bradley at Buck Whaley’s on Leeson Street, Dublin, on June 8, 2013.


Anthony Stokes

He will be sentenced on December 20 when the full facts of the case will be heard.

Stokes’ friendship with Real IRA members has been known for some time. 

His father ran the Players Lounge pub in Fairview, north Dublin, which was a base for Alan Ryan’s Real IRA gang and subject to a gun attack in which three innocent people were injured.

However, our picture reveals just how close Stokes was with the gang as he travelled abroad on holiday with them and other pals five years ago at the height of Ryan’s feud with Dublin gangs.

Alan and his brother Vinnie Ryan are both pictured smiling beside Stokes, who is holding a Magners Cider. The two brothers have both since been shot dead by criminal gangs in Dublin.

Another associate, Aaron Nealis from Sligo, is standing beside Stokes in the picture. Nealis was shot in the leg by the same gunman who murdered Ryan but survived the attack. 

Three other men who were not Real IRA members are also pictured on the trip. However, other dissident republicans not in the picture are believed to have accompanied them on the trip.

Stokes attacked Mr Bradley on June 8, 2013, the night after Ireland beat the Faroe Islands 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier.

The case was initially due to be held in the District Court but Judge Conal Gibbons said it had to go to the higher court after hearing details of the allegations and reading medical reports on the singer’s injuries.

Outlining the evidence in the initial court hearing Detective Garda Des Rogers said:  “An unknown individual spilled a drink on the injured party and it is alleged Mr Stokes intervened and headbutted the injured party.”

Refusing jurisdiction, Judge Gibbons had said: “I have to say to you that based on these medical reports I do not think it is a minor offence.”

Speaking after the attack, Mr Bradley said the incident happened moments after he tried to steady a drinker who was spilling beer on his jacket.

“It was ridiculous — silly really — and it happened in seconds. I suffered a broken nose and three broken teeth. I don’t really remember much after I was struck.”

Stokes sparked controversy in 2012 after attending a tribute night for Alan Ryan. He mingled with several well-known Real IRA terrorists at the dissident fundraising bash in Crumlin, Dublin, following Ryan’s murder.

After pictures emerged of his attendance at the event, the then Celtic manager Neil Lennon said Stokes was punished by the club as a result.

He said the decision by Stokes to attend damaged the club.

Stokes was also named in a court case in Scotland last year centring on a plot to murder loyalist Johnny Adair.

Antoin Duffy approached Stokes in a pub to ask him for his father’s help in getting guns. Stokes did not respond to Duffy following the unsolicited approach. Duffy, 39, and two others were later convicted of conspiring to kill former UDA leader Adair.

Stokes revealed he got death threats as a result of being mentioned in the case.

The Players Lounge pub was the source of continuous controversy at the height of Alan Ryan’s prominence in Ireland’s underworld. He used the pub as his base where he hung out with other dissident pals and regularly bedded women he met there.

The year after the gun attack at the pub, John Stokes erected a 40ft banner saying the Queen was banned from the premises ahead of her visit to Ireland. It said: “She and her family are officially barred from this pub. As long as the British occupy one inch of this island they will never be welcome in Ireland.

He was forced to remove the banner under planning regulations.


John Stokes

In April that year gardai raided the pub and found bullets and cocaine as well as three stun guns in a shed at the rear of the pub.

By August 2011 the pub was destroyed in a blaze allegedly set by raiders who, it was claimed, stole €80,000 in cash from the premises before setting it alight.

It didn’t reopen following the fire and was sold for around €200,000 in 2014.