Northern Ireland news

Tyrone republicans will 'vehemently challenge' prosecution over Francie McNally funeral

A republican guard of honour flanks the coffin of former Sinn Féin councillor Francie McNally last April
Connla Young

LAWYERS for two Co Tyrone republicans facing prosecution in connection with a funeral say they will "vehemently challenge" the decision.

Brian Arthurs and Frankie Quinn learned this week they are to be prosecuted in relation to their attendance at the funeral of former Sinn Féin councillor Francie McNally last April.

Both men are former senior members of the republican movement and served time for explosive offences.

Mr Arthurs was sentenced to 25 years in 1995 and released in 2000 under the Good Friday Agreement.

Brian Arthurs. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

In 1988 Mr Quinn was caught in possession of a 1,000lb bomb and sentenced to 16 years.

The high-profile pair later parted from Sinn Féin over its political direction, including its acceptance of the PSNI.

During Mr McNally's funeral procession, which was headed by a lone piper, a group of men wearing white shirts and black ties formed a guard of honour as his remains were removed from his home at Ballinderry, which straddles the Tyrone-Derry border.

They were later taken by horse and carriage to St Patrick's Church for burial.

Francie McNally, from Ballinderry, was buried last April

At the time parish priest Fr Peter Donnelly said he had been unaware of the earlier procession and that the burial had been a private family event attended by only 10 relatives.

Details of the prosecutions were revealed at the same time as the decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Féin members over the funeral of senior Belfast republican Bobby Storey last June.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law, said his clients will fight any court action.

“It is difficult to square the circle of the decision to prosecute in this case," he said.

"The reality is the law lacked the sufficient precision that is necessary under the European Convention on Human Rights, and also failed to take into consideration the important right to respect freedom of expression and cultural expression that is associated with showing respects at a funeral procession.

"For these reasons, we look forward to vehemently challenging this decision in court in due course where all decisions will be susceptible to open justice and transparency unlike the decision by the PPS to prosecute our clients."

In a statement, Mid Ulster independent councillors Barry Monteith and Dan Kerr last night also questioned why these two men were being prosecuted.

"We want to be clear - we are not condoning and we do not support any witch hunt for others to be prosecuted for attending funerals," they added.

"People have the right to remember their dead and should not be prosecuted for doing so."

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