Details of new IRA operation revealed at court hearings

A GLASWEGIAN MI5 agent paid for a free holiday and used Celtic match tickets to woo the leadership of a dissident Republican terror group in Northern Ireland.

Dennis McFadden succeeded in infiltrating the New IRA, eventually becoming a member of the executive of Saoradh, their political wing.

He disappeared in August 2020, two weeks before the arrest of nine suspected leaders of the group. The seven men and two women face charges, including directing terrorism.

A tenth suspect, Issam Bassalat, a Palestinian doctor based in Edinburgh, was also arrested and is charged with preparing terrorist acts.

All ten deny the charges.

READ MORE: Scottish GP sent back to Belfast on new IRA terrorism charges

More details about McFadden’s mission, dubbed Operation Arbacia, were reported by time following preliminary hearings in Northern Ireland.

The 54-year-old lived with his wife, Christine, and their young son in the north Belfast suburb of Glengormley.

He told locals he was a hotel inspector who traveled extensively to check the safety and standards of tourist accommodation.

However, when he was not at home, he would have informed the security services.

According to the newspaper, McFadden was known to neighbors and friends as a man for whom “money was no object”.

He often provided Celtic tickets to acquaintances, paid for the trip to Scotland, and provided overnight accommodation with his family.

He took 50-year-old Kevin Barry Murphy, allegedly a senior New IRA official from Co Tyrone, on vacation to Spain with their wives three times.

He also arranged travel and accommodation for dissident Republicans to attend political conferences abroad, including trips to Brussels and Beirut.

READ MORE: Dissident Republican group linked to four murders since 2011

McFadden had been in Northern Ireland for 15 to 20 years. He told people he had been a bar owner, pilot, NHS worker, soldier and former special constable in Glasgow.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, his family came from the Gorbals.

Saoradh and the New IRA had their power base in Derry where, in April 2019, during riots in the Creggan area, journalist Lyra McKee was shot while observing clashes with police.


His murder led to a crackdown by the New IRA, with McFadden’s mission shifting from intelligence gathering to evidence gathering.

READ MORE: Colleagues remember Lyra McKee on one year anniversary of her murder

He rented two Airbnb properties he rented in rural Co Tyrone in February and July 2020, where meetings of the so-called Army Council, the leadership of the new IRA, took place.

The meetings were bugged by MI5.

Those present reportedly spoke of the need to stock up on weapons and explosives.

It is about getting money from the “Russians” and forging alliances with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

One person talks about trying to get Semtex, rocket launchers and guns from Colombia.

Another allegation is that the dissidents discussed attacking Shannon Airport, sometimes used by the US military, to curry favor with Middle Eastern groups.

McFadden reportedly stayed after the meetings, collecting ashtrays and glasses for DNA.

After the July 2020 meeting, he left a positive review on Airbnb for the property where he hosted the gathering: “While sometimes working all night for the NHS, this place was a godsend. It’s a bit remote but a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of work.”

The home owner replied that the property was left “in very good condition and we hope that Dennis and his colleagues will use our home again in the future”.

According to reports, McFadden is in protective custody.

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