Derry man accused of directing New IRA will be shunned by ex-comrades after publicly disavowing violence: court told

A Derry man accused of directing the New IRA will remain shunned and ostracised by former comrades because he publicly disavowed violence, the High Court has heard.

Joe Barr (34) severed his ties and was “cast out” of the republican wing at Maghaberry Prison within an hour of taking the step regarded as a betrayal, a judge was told this week.

As he mounted a new application for bail, defence barrister Andrew Moriarty argued: “He has crossed the Rubicon.”

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Barr, from Cecilia’s Walk in the city, is among 10 people charged in connection with a joint MI5/PSNI surveillance operation.

He is accused of attending covertly recorded meetings of the New IRA’s leadership in Omagh, Co Tyrone in February and July 2020.

Prosecutors claim the recordings captured senior figures within the grouping being addressed by its self-proclaimed chairman and chief of staff.

Discussions involved cyber attacks, economic bombing campaigns against the British state and close-quarter shootings, it was contended.

Those present also allegedly talked about international strategy, seeking assistance from a foreign government opposed to the UK, and kidnapping drug dealers to obtain an arsenal of weapons and a £500,000 ransom.

Police have identified Barr as among those who allegedly took part in the briefing.

He faces charges of directing the activities of a proscribed organisation and preparing for acts of terrorism.

Defence representatives have raised issues over entrapment and the possible involvement of an ‘agent provocateur’ in the surveillance operation.

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At a hearing last December, Barr declared armed struggle to be counter-productive and unnecessary.

His legal team returned to court this week, arguing that he has remained within the general prison population since that unequivocal renouncement.

“He was, in effect, cast out from the segregated wing where he had been hitherto,” Mr Moriarty said.

Citing an assessment of the significance of his client’s decision, counsel told the court: “Those who took the step would be ostracised by their former comrades and shunned by the wider republican community”, the court heard.

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“Publicly renouncing violence is simply not acceptable within republican organisations; to renounce the use of force to secure the republican ideal is seen as tantamount to betrayal and anyone who does will have cut themselves off from their erstwhile comrades.

“It is a very public way of severing all ties with a republican grouping, and not a step that anyone who terms themselves a republican would take lightly.”

Mr Moriarty also stressed the speed at which Barr had to be relocated within the prison.

“People in Maghaberry on the separated wing didn’t question it for a minute because Mr Barr was cast out within 45 minutes,” the barrister said.

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“There is every indicator that the disavowal is authentic.”

With the prosecution continuing to oppose Barr’s release, Mr Justice O’Hara was told it could take six months to deal with more than 100 witnesses at pre-trial committal proceedings.

Judgment was reserved in the application for bail.