The conviction of a man charged as part of the David Black murder investigation has been hailed by the prison officer’s minister – but he also wondered whether anyone else connected with the conspiracy will ever face justice.
Rev Tom Greer, based at the Cookstown church where Mr Black worshipped, was speaking after news emerged that a five-year sentence for IRA membership had been handed down to Vincent Banks.
Banks – 49, of Smithfield Gate Apartments in Dublin – was among the people arrested by police seeking to unravel the murder plot after Mr Black was shot on his way to Maghaberry jail on November 1, 2012.
Banks was charged with IRA membership in the Republic on December 18, 2012.
He was also charged with failing to disclose information as soon as possible to police in relation to murder probe, but was acquitted of that charge in April 2014.
He was being held on remand, but had been released on bail from spring 2014.
Though Monday’s five-year sentence is all to be served in jail (rather than partially on licence), it is being backdated to April last year to take account of time spent in custody.
Rev Greer, of Molesworth Presbyterian Church where Mr Black had been a lifelong member (and where his family still worship) said he and the congregation at large “will welcome any conviction in relation to David’s murder”.
However, he added: “There are many more people who know about this and who’ve been involved in it who are still to be brought to justice.
“We’d certainly still be praying those people will be arrested and brought to justice in due course...
“There were people who pulled the trigger, people who acted as informers, as lookouts, all the other stuff that happened on that day. Whether we ever live to see those people convicted, we don’t know.”
A number of other individuals have faced court over the case, but no-one else has been convicted of terror charges.
In July 2014, charges of murder and rifle possession against Sean McVeigh (then 33 and of Victoria Street, Lurgan) were dropped by the PPS and he was released, with his lawyers declaring him “totally innocent”.
In November 2015, Fiona McFadden (30 and of Killough Gardens in Lurgan) had been given an 18-month jail term, suspended for three years, after pleading guilty to providing a false alibi for Sean McVeigh – who was her former partner – in 2012.
The only person connected to the murder investigation who is still believed to be facing charges is Damien McLaughlin, from Kilmascally Road in the Ardboe area of east Co Tyrone.
He had first appeared in court in November 2012, and is charged with preparation of terrorist acts, aiding and abetting murder, and more – charges which he denies.
He fled last year before his Diplock trial got under way, but was recaptured and is currently in prison in the Irish Republic with a hearing concerning his extradition due to take place in a Dublin court next month (it had initially been thought a decision on the matter would be taken this month).