A former republican killer was yesterday handed a 12-year sentence for removing a gun from the scene of a riot in Belfast’s republican Ardoyne district.
Thomas Stewart Patrick McWilliams – who plans to marry his long-term partner in jail – removed the semi-automatic gun from the riot in a stolen car before driving the weapon a short distance to the Flax Foyer building, which provides accommodation to young people.
The 48-year old, from Northwick Drive in the city, was handed the 12-year sentence after appearing in the dock of Belfast Crown Court.
McWilliams, who pleaded guilty to possessing the gun with intent to endanger life on July 13, 2012, was told he will serve six years in custody with a further six on supervised licence after his release.
The court heard McWilliams had a “relevant record for terrorist offences” and was given a life sentence in March 1995 for murder.
He was released on licence in July 2000, and subsequently had his licence revoked by the Secretary of State.
Appearing alongside McWilliams in the dock was 59-year-old father of three Michael Joseph Gorman, from Estoril Court in Belfast.
Gorman, who also served a life sentence for murder and was released on licence in December 1995, pleaded guilty to assisting an offender.
He let McWilliams into the Flax Foyer building, where he worked, where the gun was concealed for a short time.
For his role, Gorman was given a five-year sentence, suspended for five years.
A senior prosecutor told Judge Corinne Philpott QC street disorder erupted on July 12, 2012 after an Orange Order parade passed the Ardoyne shops.
At about 12.20am on July 13, a gunman emerged from the crowd and fired 14 shots at police in the Brompton Park area.
The court heard no-one was struck.
A helicopter equipped with CCTV captured the gunman withdrawing back into the crowd.
He then made his way to a parked Citroen and was seen putting the rifle in the rear of the vehicle before walking away. He has never been apprehended.
The Citroen was then driven by McWilliams to Flax Street, and he was let into the Flax Foyer building, before the holdall was placed behind a fridge in the kitchen.
Passing sentence, Judge Philpott told McWilliams “you have shown absolutely no remorse and the only thing that you are concerned about is yourself and your family.”