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No tea spilled New IRA double agent Dennis McFadden won't testify at trial against terror group

Since the ten were arrested and charged, McFadden has seemingly vanished and during one of many failed bail hearings the court heard that he had yet to make a statement

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Dennis McFadden

Dennis McFadden

Dennis McFadden

New IRA double agent and makeshift ‘tea-boy’ Dennis McFadden won’t be ‘stirring the pot’ at the trial against suspected leaders of the terror group.

For we can reveal the MI5 spy won’t even be called to give evidence against the ten people charged over a covert bugging operation following a joint PSNI/MI5 operation into the republican group.

The Sunday World can reveal that police and prosecutors believe the secret audio and video recordings of New IRA leadership meetings is sufficient to go to trial without McFadden taking the witness stand.

However, the trial may not be listed to begin until 2023 due to the backlog of Crown Court cases.

Earlier this month, during a bail hearing for one of the accused, it emerged that during the meetings in the so-called safe houses, McFadden can be heard on the secret recordings repeatedly asking the others if they want another cup of tea.

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Kevin Murphy

Kevin Murphy

Kevin Murphy

Since the ten were arrested and charged, McFadden has seemingly vanished and during one of many failed bail hearings the court heard that he had yet to make a statement.

At a bail hearing for one of the accused in July, defence barrister Joe Brolly said that “quite clearly, state agent Dennis McFadden has been airbrushed from the case papers” and described him as the “organiser and champion of the meetings”.

The former Scottish policeman had infiltrated the highest levels of the New IRA for over a decade up to 2020, betraying its inner-most secrets to his MI5 handlers.

Between February and July 2020, he rented houses in Co Tyrone which were used by the New IRA to hold so-called ‘leadership meetings’.

But unknown to the New IRA, MI5 had kitted out the rural properties with hi-tech audio and video-recording equipment.

After the tapes were transcribed, the PSNI’s Terrorism Investigation Unit launched ‘Operation Arbacia’ and made early morning swoops, arresting nine people in counties Armagh, Derry and Tyrone.

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The nine suspected New IRA figures charged with directing terrorism and belonging to a proscribed organisation are husband and wife David and Sharon Jordan, as well as

Damien Joseph McLaughlin from Dungannon; Kevin Murphy from Coalisland, Amanda McCabe and Shea Reynolds from Lurgan, and Patrick McDaid, Joseph Barr and Gary Hayden from Derry.

A tenth suspect, Issam Bassalat, a 62-year-old Palestinian doctor based in Edinburgh, has also been arrested and stands accused of addressing an IRA meeting.

He was arrested at Heathrow Airport in August 2020 as he was about to leave the country and head back to the Middle East.

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David Jordan

David Jordan

David Jordan

McFadden was a member of Saoradh’s ruling national executive and held the post of resource officer. He was also involved in the party’s financial affairs.

A security source said: “McFadden will not be giving evidence at the Operation Arbacia trial.

“The prosecution and the PSNI investigation teams believe that there is sufficient evidence on the audio and video tapes to put all ten on trial without needing to call him to give evidence. There’s nearly 500 hours of video and audio tape evidence and over 2,000 pages of evidence handed over to the defence teams recently.

“They were being recorded for a significant length of time without them ever having a clue. The Crown believe there’s no shortage of evidence and are keen to keep Dennis McFadden far away from any hearing.

“He simply won’t be involved because they don’t think his attendance will add anything to their case.”

In one covertly recorded meeting, discussions included the IRA’s constitution, military, weaponry, an economic bombing campaign, close-quarter shootings of police officers, cyber-attacks, parades and commemorations.

It is expected to be one of the biggest terrorist trials in Northern Ireland since the days of the supergrass hearings in the 1980s but may not be held until either 2022 or 2023.

During previous court hearings into the Operation Arbacia case, it was claimed that David Jordan addressed the meetings as a member of the ‘IRA Army Council’ and Kevin Barry Murphy is alleged to have said he was the IRA’s ‘Chief of Staff’.

Encrypted hard drives containing documents relating to the case were recently handed over to defence solicitors and lawyers for the ten accused along with passwords to open the devices.

These include the 500 hours of audio and video recordings of the New IRA meetings held at rented houses in the Creggan and Gortin areas near Omagh.

As part of forthcoming committal proceedings – the legal step to transfer the case from the magistrate’s court to the Crown Court – more than 2,000 pages of evidence have also been delivered to the defence legal teams as part of the disclosure process.

Witness statements have also been provided by members of MI5 involved in overseeing Operation Arbacia, which included providing vehicles, personnel, technical equipment and legal assistance.

Other statements have been provided by covert MI5 operatives responsible for planting the devices in the two properties and downloading the material on to a Security Service computer system at its headquarters inside Palace Barracks before being uploaded on its mainframe system at Thames House in London.

There are also witness statements provided from detectives from the Terrorism Investigation Unit and members of the Garda’s Special Detective Unit, which carried out searches of addresses in the Republic on the morning of the Operation Arbacia arrests.

In total, 1,200 statements have been provided in the case papers, possibly the largest number ever produced for a criminal trial in Northern Ireland’s legal history.

The accused recently received their case papers in Maghaberry and Hydebank Wood prisons along with equipment for watching and listening to the electronic surveillance involved in the case.

However, no statement has been provided by Dennis McFadden.

He was living with his partner and child under MI5 protection inside Palace Barracks but it is understood they have now been resettled to a secret address in Britain with a new identity.

Just days before detectives launched the arrest operation against the New IRA, McFadden mysteriously vanished from his bungalow home in Glengormley, Co Antrim.

He had used the home to entertain fellow New IRA travellers, even installing a bar in the property which republicans now believe was also fitted out with secret video and audio recording equipment by MI5 to monitor their conversations.

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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