Out of order | 

Revealed: Loyalist who filmed sick Michaela McAreavey video has gun conviction

Rifle-wielding Andrew McDade was given 100 hours community service for having the weapon without a certificate, with a judge warning he was lucky not to be jailed

Andrew McDade has a conviction for illegally possessing a gun

Ciaran Barnes

The loyalist who filmed the sectarian sing-song mocking the murder of Michaela McAreavey has a conviction for possessing a firearm.

Rifle-wielding Andrew McDade was given 100 hours community service for having the weapon without a certificate, with a judge warning he was lucky not to be jailed.

Details about the shamed 50-year-old’s criminality emerged after he told the Sunday World he would be resigning from the Orange Order.

John Bell — a former part-time firefighter who was sacked by Linfield Football Club as a voluntary coach when the hate video became public — also confirmed he would be leaving the Order.

The disgraced binman’s employer Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council says it has launched an investigation into his behaviour.

John Bell

So too has building supplier the Norman Emerson Group, for which McDade works.

Richard Beattie, the third man identified from the recording taken in Dundonald Orange Hall before last weekend’s Northern Ireland centenary parade in Belfast, has also quit the Orange Order.

Bell and Beattie were filmed by McDade laughing during the song mocking the tragic bride, who was murdered on her honeymoon in Mauritius in 2011.

The Irish language teacher and beauty queen was the daughter of legendary Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte.

John Bell

The three Portadown-based individuals are represented by loyalist activist Jamie Bryson’s JWB Consultancy firm.

In a statement issued on behalf of McDade and Bell, JWB confirmed both have resigned from the Orange Order. It added they had done so without prejudice and had since contacted the PSNI regarding threats made to them online.

“They have apologised for their actions and did so without equivocation or mitigation,” said JWB.

“There is no excusing the behaviour and the unionist and loyalist community have been united in absolute and complete condemnation.”

JWB also confirmed humiliated Beattie has resigned from the Orange Order and will be contacting the PSNI about online threats.

Richard Beattie

Beattie said “Whilst neither I or any of my colleagues were singing the completely unacceptable song, we were present and did not stop it. That was wrong and accordingly I echo the absolute and unequivocal apology”.

Portadown Football Club, which counted Beattie as a sponsor, has since cut all ties with him. Beattie added in his JWB statement: “I will also voluntarily and without prejudice be resigning my membership of the Orange Order.”

Loyalist sources told the Sunday World the sectarian sing-song took place before the Portadown lodge, of which McDade, Bell and Beattie were members, left Stormont to march to Belfast City Hall last weekend.

Andrew McDade

Thousands of Orangemen and loyalist bands took part in the celebrations to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the formation of Northern Ireland.

Footage shows Bell and Beattie, who are sitting opposite each other over a table, whooping with delight during the sickening song about murdered Michaela.

“At first the crowd in the hall were singing about the SAS killing IRA members at Loughgall and Gibraltar,” a loyalist source told the Sunday World.

“They had been drinking heavily and then the McAreavey song started. You can see from the video that a lot of the guys there didn’t know what it was about at first.

“But they cottoned on when the two younger fellas leading the song mentioned John McAreavey (Michaela’s widowed husband), and they started laughing and clapping.”

Loyalists say the disgraceful episode has caused huge damage to the Orange Order, which has been trying for years to soften its hardline image.

Our source added: “This has set the Order back years. Even unionists, never mind nationalists, are looking at it and thinking: ‘What planet are these people on?’

Dundonald Orange Hall

“The hardline elements in Portadown are blaming Andrew McDade for filming the sing-song and putting it on Facebook. They are saying it’s because of him that the Orange Order’s reputation is in the mud and people are losing their jobs.

“What they don’t seem to get is that if people hadn’t been singing sectarian songs in the first place, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

McDade is originally from Newtownards but has been living in Portadown with his fiancee, who is from the town, for some time. He refused to come to the door of his semi-detached home when the Sunday World called yesterday.

In January 2019 a police raid at the property in the smart development uncovered a .303 calibre rifle hidden in the attic.

McDade was later convicted in court of possessing a firearm without a certificate.

Sentencing him to 100 hours community service, District Judge Bernie Kelly told his solicitor Simon Downey: “Northern Ireland and firearms — just a few years ago and your client would have been going to prison for this.”

Mr Downey explained to the court the rifle was a family heirloom and in poor working condition.

He said: “Mr McDade did previously have a certificate for another weapon but the gun in question was not just owned by his father, but his grandfather before him. He had it for sentimental reasons, it was kept in a glass cabinet.”

Richard Beattie

In a statement issued on behalf of McDade, JWB Consultancy said: “The rifle was legally held and passed through generations. Mr McDade believed the licence had transferred over once he took ownership from his father. This turned out not to be the case and he was convicted accordingly. The sentence received reflects the reality of the situation rather than any nefarious purpose.”

The Orange Order refused to answer the Sunday World’s questions about other named members allegedly inside Dundonald Orange Hall during the singing of the shameful Michaela song.

A spokesman said it condemned the incident as “utterly abhorrent” and “the behaviour of those involved and their actions have no place in our society and certainly do not reflect the ethos of our organisation”.

The Order repeated that it had started an inquiry and “if any of those involved are found to be members of the Institution, they will face disciplinary proceedings”.

John McAreavey tweeted on Friday: “Michaela was a vessel of love, courage and dignity. Hate can hurt, but never win.”

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