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‘Technical' problems with MI5 IRA sting recordings

Suspected British agent Dennis McFadden
Connla Young

WORDS said by suspects in a major MI5-led surveillance operation targeting the New IRA could be attributed to the wrong person due to "technical difficulties" with recordings.

Officers from a Metropolitan Police Service (Met) unit made the admission in court documents linked to the investigation earlier this year.

Ten people have been charged after several meetings alleged to involve senior members of the 'IRA' were placed under surveillance last year as part of Operation Arbacia.

Twenty `account freezing orders' have been granted to the PSNI and National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit - a specialist unit attached to the Met's Counter Terrorism Command.

It is believed some applications to freeze the bank accounts included transcripts of recorded conversations, including two meetings alleged to involve senior members of the 'IRA' held in Co Tyrone.

It is understood documents linked to an application by the Met to seize several accounts held by two people reveal that there may be technical difficulties with recordings from which the transcripts are taken, where the audio and visual recordings are not synched.

The court is understood to have been told this means that some statements could potentially be attributed to the wrong individual.

Solicitor Ciarán Shiels, of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, said they have been "aware of this issue... for a number of months and the lawyers for all the various accused are alive to the difficulties that the prosecution are going to experience with these recordings."

Mr Shiels added "certainly this will prove to be one of the areas of contest in the forthcoming trial and defence experts are engaged to assist on this issue".

In August The Irish News revealed hard drives containing transcripts and other materials linked to the case had been handed over to lawyers representing the 10 accused in recent months.

At a court hearing linked to the case last week, a barrister revealed there are now 15,367 pages of evidence and "705 hours of viewing and listening to the audio and video".

Witness statements have also been provided by members of MI5, the PSNI and gardai.

It is understood that around 1,200 statements are also contained in the documents.

No statements have been provided by suspected British agent Dennis McFadden, who is understood to have set up two bugged meetings in 2020, one near Creggan in February and another close to Gortin in July.

A member of the Saoradh national executive, McFadden held the post of resource officer and is believed to have been involved in financial affairs.

He is now understood to be in protective custody.

The accused in the case include husband and wife David and Sharon Jordan, Damien Joseph McLaughlin, Kevin Murphy, Amanda McCabe, Shea Reynolds, Joseph Barr, Gary Hayden and Paddy McDaid.

Palestinian doctor Issam Bassalat, who recently suffered a heart attack behind bars, is charged with 'preparation of terrorist acts'.

All deny the charges.

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