In 2012, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton were convicted of the 2009 murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in County Armagh. Their campaign team, who call them the Craigavon Two, believe their conviction is a miscarriage of justice.
Currently the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) bill is making its way through parliament. And the use of an MI5 agent in the Craigavon Two case underlines, again, how dangerous this legislation can be.
On 21 October, Channel 4 News broadcast its investigation into the use of MI5 agents in Ireland. It revealed that MI5 agent Dennis McFadden could have been undercover in Ireland “for up to 20 years”.
As reported by The Canary, McFadden was the MI5 agent implicated in the arrest of Palestinian activist Dr Hijjawi-Bassalat and alleged members of the New IRA.
During an interview on the Channel 4 News investigation, Brendan McConville said:
I believe he [McFadden] sabotaged my appeal.
McConville told The Canary:
Dennis unlawfully obtain[ed] legally privileged information pertaining to the appeal strategy and proposed witnesses. This information was unlawfully used by MI5 to manipulate the outcome of the Appeal.
Dennis abused the trust and confidence within the campaign and family home.
“A punitive act of censorship”
Since the airing of the Channel 4 News interview, The Canary has learned of prison authorities placing an alleged sanction against Brendan McConville. On its social media page, a prisoner welfare group alleges:
Following on from a recent Channel 4 news documentary where current Republican Prisoner, Brendan McConville, spoke to reporters via telephone of his case and the involvement of British agent Dennis McFadden in the Craigavon 2 campaign, the MI5 led Maghaberry regime has suspended telephone contact with his elderly mother and father in what can only be described as a punitive act of censorship.
The Canary contacted the Northern Ireland Prison Service for comment, but it did not respond by the time of publication.
These recent revelations are quite timely as the CHIS bill is going through parliament. But while the Tory majority is, so far, seeing the bill pass through the relevant stages in the House of Commons, it’s strongly opposed by many in the Labour Party.
Despite Keir Starmer’s instructions for Labour MPs to abstain from voting on this bill, 34 MPs ignored him and voted against it. Among the 34 were Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, and Diane Abbott. Shadow ministers Margaret Greenwood and Dan Carden also rebelled against Starmer’s wishes and resigned from the front bench.
Recent years have repeatedly exposed reasons not to trust the secret state — from police collusion in the illegal blacklisting of thousands of trade unionists in the construction industry to the infiltration of peaceful protest groups by undercover officers whose “cover” entailed beginning long-term sexual relationships with women on false pretences. Some of these relationships resulted in children.
And human rights campaigners are absolutely right to point to the appalling history of British state collaboration with loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, where undercover agents’ crimes included murder.
The Craigavon Two’s legal team submitted their case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in late 2016. They did so because the CCRC has the power to refer cases to an appeal court. The Canary contacted the CCRC for comment, but it didn’t respond by the time of publication.
Solicitors for the Craigavon Two say:
Alleged Undercover MI5 Agent Dennis McFadden, director of Justice Watch Ireland, attended legal briefings of Brendan McConville. Brendan believes McFadden sabotaged his appeal.
McConville and his family claim that McFadden infiltrated their justice campaign. So they believe the “conviction should be rendered unsafe”. They intend to pursue this matter with the CCRC.
Featured image via Flickr – Kieran Lamb & permission given to The Canary
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?