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02/08/2021

Three Derry men to appeal illegal parade convictions

Three Derry men are to appeal their convictions linked to an illegal dissident republican parade in the Creggan area of the city almost four years ago.

Derry courthouse

Three Derry men are to appeal their convictions linked to an illegal dissident republican parade in the Creggan area of the city almost four years ago.

The three appeared at the city's Magistrates Court this week charged with wearing clothing giving rise to suspicions they were members of the IRA and two of them of taking part in an illegal dissident republican parade in the city on 28 March 2016.

Mark Anthony Canning, 43, of St Eithne's Park, James Anthony Kelly, 59, of Chamberlain Street and Eamonn Barry Millar, 35, of Raftery Close, all in Derry, denied a charge of taking part in the illegal parade.

They were also charged with wearing clothing that gave rise to suspicions they were members of the IRA. The court heard from a police inspector about entering Rathmor Business Park on Eastway in the Creggan area of the city at around 1.10pm and encountering two men, one of them Canning, dressed “in full paramilitary uniform” and carrying flags.

The officer said he attended offices in the complex and warned people there, any march would be illegal.

The court was told footage taken from a police helicopter showed a number of the men getting into a white van that was stopped by police and Canning was found inside, still in uniform.

The court heard warnings were also given over loudspeaker from police landrovers in the area.

Footage from the helicopter was shown to the court and a colour party could be seen forming up and proceeding to march into Derry City Cemetery.

The prosecution barrister said they wished to show, what he described as “open source” material footage from YouTube.

However, defence barrister for Canning, Eoghan Devlin, objected saying the footage had not been proven and where and when it had been taken.

At the end of the prosecution case, Mr Devlin applied for a direction in Canning's case on the illegal parade charge, stating that there was no evidence of him actually taking part in the parade.

Judge McElholm said it did appear there was no evidence of him actually taking part in the parade.

He said there was evidence of him being near where people were gathering for the parade and also footage of him after the parade but none of him actually in the parade. Mr Devlin also raised the issue of the wording of the charge asking which IRA was being referred to. He said it could be the Provisional IRA, it could be Oglaigh na hEireann ot the Real IRA. He said it would be expected there would be badges and emblems indicating which organisation was being supported but in this case there were none.

The barrister said the charge seemed to be referring “to basically violent republicanism.”

He said all that could be adduced was that there were people wearing military fatigues.

Judge McElholm said people wearing fatigues should be on a parade ground in a military barracks. He added “how dare” people call themselves Oglaigh na hEireann when that was the name of the Irish Defence Forces.

He added that “these days should be gone.”

He then convicted Kelly and Millar of both charges and Canning of the charge of wearing clothing raising suspicions of IRA membership.

He imposed a sentence of two months in prison suspended for two years.

All three indicated they wanted to appeal and they were given bail on condition they do not go within 500 metres of any illegal parade.

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