A former Sinn Fein councilman was charged today with murdering a Northern Ireland policeman and a senior judge ordered police to free or charge six other suspected Irish Republican Army dissidents held over recent killings.
Brendan McConville, 37, didn't speak during the brief court hearing in Lisburn, a Belfast suburb. He faces charges of murdering the policeman on 9 March and possessing an assault rifle and ammunition. He was the second person to be charged with the murder and arms possession, joining a 17-year-old boy similarly charged Monday.
McConville was a town councilman for Sinn Fein until 1997, when the mainstream IRA stopped its 27-year effort to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. He drifted away from the party following its landmark 2007 moves to forge a power-sharing government with Northern Ireland's protestant majority and to begin supporting the police force.
Detectives have spent the past two weeks arresting and interrogating suspected IRA dissidents suspected of involvement in this month's two deadly attacks — the first against British security forces since 1998.