We travelled to Derry to speak to Martin McLoone (34) about the sensational court claims, to give him an opportunity to respond
During the explosive trial over the murder of Regency Hotel gun victim David Byrne, it was claimed Martin McLoone was visited by convicted gang member Jonathan Dowdall and possibly by ‘The Monk’ a second time.
The prosecution say Dowdall travelled to meet McLoone, who they say was at the time in the Real IRA, on January 5, 2016.
They say two weeks later Dowdall returned to Derry for meetings and this time brought Gerry Hutch – though it’s not clear if ‘The Monk’ met with McLoone on that occasion.
At the time of the alleged meetings McLoone wasn’t long out of prison having been sentenced to eight years for possession of a loaded gun in October 2010.
We travelled to Derry to speak to McLoone (34) about the sensational court claims, to give him an opportunity to respond.
But he declined our offer to explain if claims made at Dublin’s Special Criminal Court during the trial for the murder of Kinahan gang member David Byrne were accurate.
Instead, he took to Facebook to put on record the claims were not true.
Hours after our story was published, McLoone, who is the PRO of Republican Network for Unity, went public with his own version of events.
He categorically denied ever meeting any so-called “Dublin gangsters” and said he couldn’t have been in the Real IRA in 2016, as the police intelligence had stated in court, as the terrorist group no longer existed then.
He stated: “Today the Sunday Worldran a story which was about myself, meeting some Dublin gangsters.
“I refused to speak to the Sunday World given their reputation for fabrication and twisting, as they done with me before when I was in prison regarding my father’s arrest which they again reiterated.”
For the record, we have never written about him or his father in any edition of the Sunday World until last week – and he appears to have mixed us up with another paper.
But addressing the claims he had met gang members, including Dowdall and Hutch, he stated: “I have not met any of these characters before and I do not know them, I have no friends in common and no family links, the story extends from a Garda superintendent mentioning me in court regarding ‘intelligence’ that they had come to meet with me in January 2016.
“This, of course, all under the guise that I was a senior and leadership figure within the Real IRA, a group which no longer existed in 2016. Not to mention that I was only out of jail a few months by this time after serving 4 years in Maghaberry for the Republican Movement.
“I have never been a senior member or leadership figure of any armed group. I wasn’t going to address it because it is just utter nonsense and the rest of the article was about my previous imprisonment and gleaned information from my Facebook.
“Were these people (Hutch and Dowdall) in Derry? I have no idea and I honestly don’t care, if they were, they certainly were not with me.”
McLoone was jailed for eight years after he and three other republicans were caught with a loaded gun 12 years ago.
The four were caught in a Ford Fiesta outside Omagh, with McLoone and another man sitting in the back with the seats flat.
Police searched the car and found a .38 Webley revolver hidden in a sock in a green Celtic holdall.
The weapon had been deactivated in 2003 but had been reactivated to fire .22 rifle cartridges.
Detectives also discovered ammunition, including 13 rounds of .22 rifle cartridges and 20 rounds of 9x19mm calibre cartridges, inside a second sock.
Follow-up searches uncovered a sub-machine-gun, bullets, latex gloves and combat jackets in Greencastle, Co. Tyrone.
When initially arrested, McLoone told police at the scene that he was “going to a republican meeting”. Asked about the gun, he replied: “I didn’t know it was there.” Three years later, he pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm with intent.
He went to the Court of Appeal a year later in the hope his sentence would be reduced but his case was chucked out.
Lord Justice Gillen said: “The offence the appellant was convicted of, and the circumstances in which it occurred, well merited the sentence he received.”
The Special Criminal Court in Dublin was told last week that according to intelligence, Dowdall travelled to Derry to meet Martin McLoone of the Real IRA, of Abercorn Road, Derry, on January 5, 2016. Intelligence also suggested he brought Gerry Hutch to Derry on January 18, 2016.
The court was also told that on February 11, 2016, Jonathan and Patrick Dowdall travelled to Northern Ireland where Det Supt Johnson believed they met with members of the Continuity IRA.