The C2 are Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton from the Craigavon area in the north of Ireland. They’ve been in prison since March 2009 for the killing of police officer Stephen Carroll. And that’s despite the farcical evidence and ludicrous eye witness testimony presented at their trial. A group called the Continuity IRA (CIRA) claimed responsibility for Carroll’s killing.
The two men and their justice campaign teams maintain their innocence and believe they have suffered a miscarriage of justice.
And now, following revelations in Belfast’s Sunday Life on 15 January, their convictions must stand on even shakier ground. Because the Sunday Life’s article revealed that an MI5 agent attempted to subvert the C2’s justice campaign. This will strengthen the calls for their case to be returned to the court of appeal.
The Sunday Life revealed that:
A human rights organisation founded by MI5 agent Dennis McFadden was an intelligence services ruse to infiltrate and sabotage republican justice campaigns.
That organisation was called Justice Watch Ireland (JWI). But, as the Belfast paper wrote:
McFadden’s real interest lay in attempts by republicans to overturn the convictions of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton.
Former Sinn Féin Councillor Angela Nelson, who once headed the C2 justice campaign organisation, claimed “McFadden stymied her efforts”. Nelson claimed McFadden blocked her attempts to go on a speaking tour around Ireland to highlight the injustice suffered by the C2.
Additionally, he refused to hand over passwords for C2 justice campaign social media accounts. He also blocked her attempts to reach out to Irish people in the US for campaign support. Nelson claims she kept McFadden “at arm’s length” as she never trusted him.
MI5 infiltration and campaign set backs
Since 2009, the C2’s justice campaign has suffered a series of serious set backs. Even before their case went to court, prison staff planted personal details of the prison governor in McConville’s cell. This was done in an attempt to make it look as if McConville was collecting personal information on the governor. This would then serve to implicate McConville and intimidate the governor.
Then, their 2014 appeal against their sentences was unsuccessful. In fact, later that year Wootton’s sentence was increased from 14 to 18 years. While inside, McConville suffered a stroke. McConville’s family claim the prison authorities “didn’t even tell us”. And all the while, according to the Sunday Life, their campaign was being “subverted” by an MI5 agent.
In October 2020, following the original revelation about McFadden’s role as an MI5 agent in the north of Ireland, McConville told The Canary's Peadar O'Cearnaigh:
Dennis unlawfully obtain[ed] legally privileged information pertaining to the appeal strategy and proposed witnesses. This information was unlawfully used by MI5 to manipulate the outcome of the Appeal. Dennis abused the trust and confidence within the campaign and family home.
Some light on the horizon
Despite these set backs, the justice campaign continues. In fact it’s been with the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) since 2016. The CCRC “looks into criminal cases where people believe they have been wrongly convicted or wrongly sentenced.” Since its creation in 1997, it has referred 800 cases to appeal.
The silver lining in this MI5 cloud of subversion, could well be the CCRC sending McConville and Wootton’s case to the appeal court. One of the families told this journalist:
The campaign will continue to highlight this current miscarriage of justice and will do so until these wrongful convictions are overturned.