Northern Ireland news

Man (65) accused of stealing banner commemorating loyalist killer Wesley Somerville elects to have jury trial

Frank McGirr is accused of stealing a banner commemorating loyalist killer Wesley Somerville in the village of Moygashel, Co Tyrone

A man accused of stealing a banner commemorating loyalist killer Wesley Somerville in a Co Tyrone village almost two years ago has elected to have a jury hear his trial.

Frank McGirr (65), of Shanliss Road, Stewartstown, is charged with committing the offence on June 23 2017.

The banner, which court papers state belonged to Mr Victor McNickle and was valued at £150, was removed from a lamppost in Moygashel outside Dungannon.

Somerville was killed along with fellow loyalist Harris Boyle as they placed a bomb on a minibus carrying the Miami Showband near Banbridge in Co Down in July 1975.

When the device exploded members of the loyalist gang - some of them also UDR members - opened fire on the band, killing lead singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy and wounding two others.

Relatives of people killed by Somerville and his UVF unit have objected to the banner.

McGirr appeared in a wheelchair at Dungannon Magistrates Court yesterday charged with theft.

He did not enter a plea, instead electing to have the matter proceed to a higher court.

It is the right of person accused of theft, as well as other matters, to choose whether their case remains in the magistrates court where it would be heard by a judge sitting alone, or to transfer to the crown court for trial by a judge and jury.

No details of the matter where disclosed during the short hearing.

District Judge John Meehan ordered an adjournment until next month when a committal date is to be fixed.

At that stage it is expected McGirr will be returned for trial to crown court on bail.

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