The loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone yesterday denied trying to kill the leaders of Sinn Fein and insisted his attempt to force his way into Stormont carrying a small armoury of weapons was not terrorism but "an act of performance art".
Stone, 53, who has previously served 12 years of a life sentence for six killings, is charged with attempting to murder Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at the Stormont parliament in Belfast in 2006.
He was detained at the building's front doors by two security guards. The episode caused a major security incident because republican and unionist leaders were attending a meeting of the Belfast Assembly a short distance away. In addition to attempted murder, he faces charges of possessing an imitation firearm, nail and pipe bombs, three knives, a hatchet and a garrotte.
An army bomb disposal expert testified that in a bag flung into the building by Stone, he had found 12 fireworks, firelighters and a two-litre plastic bottle filled with petrol, as well as four pipe bombs filled with nails. The expert said that these were sufficient to cause a considerable blast had they been used.
The two security guards have testified that when Stone appeared they believed he was a suicide bomber. Susan Porter said Stone "pulled a gun and held it to my face", telling her to move back or he would shoot her. She leapt forward and managed to take the gun away from him.
Offering an unusual defence at Belfast Crown Court, Stone claimed the incident, which was televised, was "a comic parody" meant to "put a rocket up the backsides" of politicians. He said he did not intend to harm anyone, especially Martin McGuinness as "he would be the last man I would target because he was a security force asset". He said his "performance protest" was aimed at helping the peace process.
Stone came to public attention in 1988 after a one-man attack on a republican funeral in which he killed three mourners with a revolver and hand grenades. He was released 12 years later when most prisoners were freed in a political settlement. Since then he has often courted publicity. The court heard that, in a letter to a Belfast journalist, Stone had said he planned to "slit the throats" of the republican leaders.
He added that by the time the letter was received he expected to be deceased or about to spend the rest of his life in prison.
The letter went on: "I don't intend withdrawing from my mission when, as a freelance dissident loyalist paramilitary, I set out to assassinate the Irish republican war criminals Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness."
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