Editor hands in photos of 'Real IRA' to police

 

The editor of a Derry newspaper yesterday handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland photographs of an arson attack allegedly carried out by the "Real IRA" on an unmanned communications station in the Sheriff's Mountain of Derry last weekend.

Five photographs of the incident, taken by staff photographer Tom Heaney, appeared in yesterday's issue of the Derry News weekly newspaper.

Following the publication of the photographs accompanied by a report, the editor, Mr Garbhan Downey, appeared before Judge Corinne Philpott in Derry Court.

Together with a solicitor, Mr John O'Leary, Mr Downey attended the short closed hearing in the judge's chambers and agreed to hand over all photographic negatives, prints, digital images and the computer disk relating to the attack.

Mr Downey said he was forced to comply with the judge's ruling which followed an application to the court by the PSNI.

"Clearly no journalist would be happy with the thought that material that was gathered lawfully could be seized and used by the police. Any journalist would be concerned about this," said Mr. Downey.

"The police knew we had the photographs earlier in the week and they informed us yesterday that they would be making this application.

"Last week we got an anonymous phone call to the office advising us to go to a republican demonstration at Sheriff's Mountain," Mr Downey said.

"We sent a reporter and a photographer to the demonstration last Saturday. It turned out not so much a demonstration but an attack by up to 20 masked men who used sledgehammers and wirecutters to attack and burn what they said was a British army spy post".

In its report of the incident, the Derry News said that following legal advice it informed the police of the existence of the photographs.

The report said that the attack on the alleged spy post by members of the "Real IRA" lasted about 20 minutes.

"In dramatic scenes, they threw powerful fireworks at the building before smashing their way through the locked gates at the compound.

"Once inside, a number of the men climbed up the mast and attacked electrical equipment with claw hammers," the report said.

"Undeterred by the screech of an alarm siren, they forced their way into the building and threw car tyres inside before dousing the building in flammable liquid and setting it alight."

The alleged members of the "Real IRA", the republican dissident group which carried out the 1998 Omagh bomb atrocity, killing 28 people, fled across fields towards the Creggan estate after attacking the unmanned communications station.

The station mast, which is used by the emergency services to relay communications to control rooms, has several cameras attached.

A PSNI spokesman said yesterday that the attack could have caused serious damage to the emergency services' communications ability.