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Jailed New IRA killer ordered hit on PSNI officer John Caldwell from behind bars

This is not the first time Braney allegedly gave orders for an assassination – and sources say it won’t be his last

Kevin Braney (inset) ordered the hit on Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell

Kevin Braney is in Portlaoise

Paula MackinSunday World

The attempted murder of senior PSNI officer John Caldwell was sanctioned from behind bars by a convicted killer from Tallaght, Dublin, who is one of the New IRA’s most senior leaders, a source has claimed.

Kevin Braney is currently serving a life sentence in Portlaoise Prison, but his incarceration has not prevented him from calling the shots when it comes to the day-to-day running of the New IRA.

Braney maintains contact with members of the New IRA on both sides of the border and would have had regular contact with a senior member of the New IRA until he was arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities.

The Sunday World can reveal this is not the first time Braney allegedly gave orders for an assassination – and sources say it won’t be his last.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot four times as he packed footballs into boot of his car at a sports centre in Omagh, Co. Tyrone last week.

Kevin Braney is in Portlaoise

His terrified and now traumatised son was by his father’s side as he was sprayed with bullets. One of the masked gunmen also allegedly pointed his gun at the boy.

Caldwell’s attempted murder would not have gone ahead without the order and planning of Braney, according to dissident sources.

He is also said to have hand-picked the “team” chosen to take out the high-profile cop, who remains in a critical condition.

“Kevin Braney may be in prison but he is still as deadly as he was when he was a free man. That attempted murder had his hands all over it – he would have gave the nod, what I’ve been told is that he hand-picked him for target himself,” said one dissident source.

It has been claimed Caldwell came to Braney’s and the New IRA’s attention after a series of high-profile cases where he appeared regularly on TV. He has also investigated activities of dissident groups across Northern Ireland.

The timing, it has been suggested, coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which the New IRA remain opposed to.

“Kevin knew who he was, he became aware of him, knew how high-profile a cop he was, and thought he was a perfect target, maximum impact and all that. Go higher up the ranks than Ronan Kerr [the PSNI Constable murdered in April 2011],” the source said.

“Kevin still very much knows what is going on, who’s who. He is a smart, calculated, lethal man who has time on his hands to work things out.

“He likes to weigh operations and operatives up, plan it all out. He is constantly getting information in and out of Portlaoise and he finds it easy, he just does it, it’s not some complicated secret message plot,” an Armagh dissident source said.

Sources have also revealed that Braney is now more involved in the North that he ever was after a series of arrests of the alleged leadership.

David Jordan, Sharon Jordan and Damien Joseph McLaughlin from Dungannon, Co. Tyrone; Kevin Murphy from Coalisland; Issam Bassalat from Edinburgh; Amanda McCabe and Shea Reynolds from Lurgan, Co. Armagh; and Patrick McDaid, Joseph Barr and Gary Hayden from Derry are all set to stand trial for alleged terrorist offences.

It has been claimed in court that covert recordings captured discussions around the New IRA executive, recruitment, weaponry, an economic bombing campaign, close-quarter shootings of police officers and cyber attacks.

Braney (48), from Tallaght, Dublin, was convicted of the murder of Peter Butterly, who was chased and shot outside The Huntsman Inn, Gormanston, Co. Meath, on March 6, 2013.

The 35-year-old was shot in view of students waiting for their school bus in what the Special Criminal Court said was not “a spontaneous act”. He died from gunshot wounds to his neck and upper back.

Delivering judgment at the non-jury court, Mr Justice Paul Coffey said the court had been driven “irresistibly” to the conclusion that Braney was involved in the organisation and planning of Mr Butterly’s murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prosecuting counsel Paul O’Higgins SC told the court that Braney “was in effect to have been the man who gave the orders... and is shown to have had an extensive involvement”.

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