21 Oct 2020

Revealed: British spy’s activities in Northern Ireland

Special Correspondent and Presenter

As Operation Arbacia – a major police and MI5 terror investigation – has allegedly led to the capture of the new IRA’s high command, Channel 4 News has been investigating the role of the prosecution’s star witness MI5 agent: Dennis McFadden.

Our findings shed light on some of his activities in Northern Ireland and reveals significant new developments which could lead to questions over undercover activities in Northern Ireland.

The friends and lawyer of one of the defendants charged under Operation Arbacia claim that he was “entrapped” by an MI5 agent. Scottish Palestinian GP, Dr Issam Bassalat, from Edinburgh has been charged under Section 5 of the Terrorism Act.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, his lawyer Gavin Booth from Belfast based Phoenix Law said: “Dr Bassalat was clearly pestered by who we now believe was an MI5 private agent. Mr Booth claims his client was “lured” from Scotland to Belfast by the MI5 agent and believed that he was giving a public talk on Palestine.”

Dr Bassalat is accused of addressing a meeting of the new IRA at a safehouse in County Tyrone.

His lawyer told Channel 4 News, he has seen transcripts of the recordings made at an alleged meeting of the new IRA and that “everything that’s contained within the transcripts and the recordings is about Palestine, is about peaceful and democratic change. There’s nothing in the transcripts from Dr. Bassalat that would support violence in any way.”

Dr Bassalat is expected to face a non-jury trial, alongside nine other defendants who are accused of being members of the new IRA.

In a previously unseen picture of the MI5 agent, Dennis McFadden is seen at the home of Brendan McConville in 2013 – apparently attending a briefing between McConville’s lawyer and his family. Mr McFadden had presented himself to the McConville family as a campaigner against miscarriages of justice and was a director of the campaign group Justice Watch Ireland.

McConville was one of two people convicted of murdering police officer Stephen Carroll in 2009, but appealed his verdict four years later. McConville and his family have always maintained his innocence and argue Dennis McFadden infiltrated their defence campaign (commonly known as Justice for the Craigavon Two) and as a result the conviction should be rendered unsafe.

Speaking on the phone from high security Maghaberry Prison, McConville told Channel 4 News: “I believe he sabotaged my appeal. I felt that he had a real genuine concern, on justice. Little did I know that it was the hand of MI5.”

The McConville family also claim the MI5 man took control of their social media campaign and refused to give them the passwords. McConville’s mother, Eileen McConville said: “I used to think he’s (McFadden’s) awful good, from Scotland, coming over here and trying to help us like. We never suspected. Never. And you wouldn’t, you just wouldn’t have. He was so nice.”

Following the unveiling of McFadden as an MI5 agent, McConville’s lawyers have now submitted a file to the Criminal Cases Review Commission calling for a fresh appeal in which the conviction should be deemed unsafe.

Tonight, a UK Government spokesperson told Channel 4 News: “We do not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”