Dissident republican Paddy Murray last night laughed down claims that he is an MI5 agent.
The 44-year-old former Provisional IRA man-turned-dissident slammed last week's reports that he may have been taken into protective custody by police officers after being suspected of informing.
It had been claimed that Mr Murray, who moved to Dungiven from Antrim last year, unexpectedly disappeared from his home more than one week ago saying police had told him they had thwarted a planned Real IRA attempt on his life.
But last night a defiant Mr Murray claimed the rumours about him being an MI5 agent had been started by a top Belfast republican.
He said the rumours started by a former adversary were "all total rubbish".
He claimed: "I am no MI5 tout. I know who started those rumours. It was done because there is nothing else to throw at me.
"I did not flee my home. I went away for a few days and I am staying with a friend and just having a break.
"In fact, I am just out for a walk at the minute.
"The reason people could not get in touch with me is because there is no network for my mobile in this part of the world."
Mr Murray alleged the rumours were started by the senior republican because he hoped "some of the mud would stick".
He claimed the same person had engineered the putting up of graffiti around south Antrim saying 'Paddy Murray MI5 tout'.
Again totally refuting claims that he was a police agent, he said: "Most definitely not.
"Anyone who knows me would know for a fact the claims are all lies. The organisation that was meant to be trying to kill me according to the story – the Real IRA – has even come out and said it was not true.
"They said they did not believe that I was a tout.
"This is just a matter of mixing.
"I am definitely not on the run. Whoever started this rumour is playing a dangerous game.
"I suppose some people hope that I have gone away – but I have not. I will be going home. The rumours are totally untrue."
In March 1994 Murray – originally from west Belfast – was sentenced to 25 years in jail for possession of PIRA explosives.
He was freed in July 2000 under the Good Friday Agreement but after acting as a representative for Sinn Fein in Antrim he became a vocal critic of the party.
In 2005, Murray was accused of trying to heighten sectarian tensions in Ballymena by organising a controversial republican parade there.
In February 2005, a Real IRA bomb factory was found in Ballymena. Four men and one woman were charged with possessing three incendiaries and Real IRA membership after police raided a house in the Fisherwick estate.
In September 2005 Murray was charged with kidnapping and assaulting an Antrim man.
Earlier this year he was one of the organisers of a series of dissident republican meetings opposing Sinn Fein's support for policing.