British paras seek anonymity in Official IRA murder case

Two former British soldiers accused of murdering an Official IRA commander in Northern Ireland are asking for their identities to be withheld during court proceedings, a judge has been told.

The two British Parachute Regiment veterans, both now in their 60s, are being prosecuted over the death of Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972.

As the case reached the floor of a courtroom for the first time, a Crown lawyer said the state had "not finalised" its response to the defence application for anonymity.

District judge Fiona Bagnall ruled that the ex-paras would continue to be referred to as Soldier A and Soldier C until the application was considered at a hearing later this month.

Mr McCann's widow, Anne, and three of his four children - Aine, Feargal and Nuala - travelled from their homes in Galway to attend the brief opening hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

Members of Joe McCann's family, (back row) daughters Aine and Nuala and son Feargal, and (front) widow Nuala outside Belfast Magistrates' Court.

The two retired soldiers were not in court.

Mr McCann had been one of the Official IRA's most prominent activists in the early days of the Troubles.

The veteran of Catholic civil rights protests was shot by a British Army patrol in Joy Street in the Markets area of Belfast city centre in April 1972.

In 1969 the IRA spilt into the Official IRA and Provisional IRA.

The Provisional movement went on to wage an intensive armed campaign throughout the Troubles. While the Officials were also engaged in violence in the first years of the conflict, it was not on the same scale as the Provos.

The anonymity application will be considered by the court on December 20.


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