EXCLUSIVE: FORMER RUC Special Branch agent turned IRA supergrass has pledged his support to bandsmen awaiting trial for playing music at the loyalist Twaddell Avenue protests.
Belfast Daily can reveal that Gilmour has pledged to attend the trial in two month’s time at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.
His attendance is being backed by supporters of the Pride of Ardoyne flute band.
A source close the band told Belfast Daily: “Raymon Gilmour says he is 100 per cent in support of the bandsmen.
“He wants to come to Belfast to attend the hearing.
“The group are delighted with his support and former members of the security forces attached to the group will be providing his security when he is in Northern Ireland.
“His attendance will cause a major headache for Chief Constable George Hamilton.
“He and his officers chose this path. They could easily have walked away but they decided to purse this case.”
Last wee, a date was for the case of six Pride of Ardoyne bandsmen charged with illegally playing music at Twaddell protest parades.
During a review hearing at Belfast Magistrates’ Court this morning, the date for the contest hearing was set as Wednesday, April 22.
Two days have been set aside for the hearing.
But a source close to the case told Belfast Daily: “In their arrogance, the prosecution have set aside just two days.
“This is going to be a long drawn out case for the prosecution. And all at the public expense.”
A heavy security presence is expected to be in place for the hearing as up to 500 loyalists plan to descend on the Laganside courts complex to show support to the bandsmen.
The six Belfast accused face charges of failing to comply with conditions imposed by the 1998 Public Processions Act by playing music between the junction of Twaddell Avenue and Woodvale Drive and the dispersal point at the junction of Twaddell Avenue and Crumlin Road during parades on a range of different dates between February and May.
Two other bandsmen have yet to receive their summons as they have since changed addresses.
At their first appearance in October, PUP leader Billy Hutchinson and north Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds were among the those who turned up to support the bandsmen.
As part of the prosecution case, a total of 22 police officers have been called to give evidence against the bandsmen.
Among the police witnesses will be local PSNI ‘silver commander’ Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick.
A defence lawyer is expected to question police officers about an alleged ‘informant’ it had recruited.
The PSNI ‘informant’ is said to have named the six accused as leading members of the POA and also helped identify where they were living.
It is understood the ‘informant’ will receive a defence summons to give evidence at the hearing.
The decision to prosecute the bandsmen is said to have left PSNI officers in north/west Belfast concerned that they may be “left with egg on their faces’’ if the POA win their case.
A security source: “There is a feeling among police in north/west Belfast that the charges should not have gone forward in the first place.
“This court case is just further damaging relations between the police and loyalists on the ground.’’