Ex-IRA leader remanded amid witness intimidation fears

A former IRA leader in the Maze prison in the North was remanded in custody yesterday on charges linked to a police investigation into a murder outside a Belfast bar.

Padraic Wilson was accused of IRA membership and addressing a meeting encouraging support for the organisation.

A detective told Belfast Magistrates’ Court that Wilson, 53, took part in a meeting with the sisters of Robert McCartney, 33, who was stabbed to death outside the pub in 2005.

His death led to an international campaign, prompted by his sisters.

The court was told police were not connecting him to the murder.

Wilson was the leader of IRA prisoners in the Maze in the late 1990s.

He was remanded in custody after police expressed fears that the political manager would intimidate witnesses, a claim denied by his lawyer Peter Madden.

A detective told the court: “The police objections to bail are based on our concerns of interference with witnesses and re-offending.”

He said it is alleged that at the time the offences took place in 2005, the accused, a married father-of-two from Hamill Park in Andersonstown, west Belfast, was reported to be a member of the IRA’s ruling army council.

“He still holds a significant position of influence within portions of the community and, because of that, we have concerns that there would be interference with witnesses,” the policeman said.

He said six witness statements had been received from Mr McCartney’s sisters and former partner accusing him of involvement in an IRA internal investigation following the murder of Mr McCartney.

The detective said: “It is alleged that Mr Wilson and an unidentified person met with the family in their capacity as members of the IRA and as representatives of the Army Council of the IRA.

“That role was carrying out an internal investigation into the murder.

“It is alleged that at least two meetings were held with members of the family and Mr Wilson.”

The detective said the McCartney family were able to identify Wilson recently through internet research and recognised him as the person who took the lead in addressing the meetings.”

He said the defendant was convicted of IRA membership some time ago.

Mr Madden said his client denied admitting he was in the IRA and said it was his word against the McCartneys.

“Rather than Mr Wilson being involved in the murder it is the direct opposite of that. It is very clear that Robert McCartney’s sisters have made statements saying Mr Wilson said a certain thing, saying he was a member of the IRA,” he said.

“It is a rare situation when somebody is actually charged with membership of the IRA by a witness or witnesses who say he was a member. I have never come across that before.”

He was remanded in custody to Nov 30.

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