Political attempts to resolve Northern Ireland’s troubled past could have implications for a man newly charged with the loyalist murders of two Catholic workmen nearly 20 years ago, a court has heard.
As Mark Campbell appeared before magistrates accused of killing Gary Convie and Eamon Fox in north Belfast, his lawyer raised the potential relevance of the Haass talks and Attorney General John Larkin’s proposals for an end to prosecutions for conflict-related crimes.
Campbell, 42, of no fixed address was arrested by detectives investigating the two murders.
Mr Convie, 24, and Mr Fox, 44, who were from Maghery in Co Armagh, were sitting in their car at a building site in North Queen Street on May 17, 1994 when a gunman opened fire with a sub-machine gun.
Campbell faces two counts of murder and the attempted murder of a third man, Donal Laverty on the same date.
He is further charged with possessing a Sten submachine gun and ammunition with intent to endanger life. All of the alleged offences are denied.
Members of the murder victims’ families were in Belfast Magistrates’ Court as Campbell was brought into the dock.
Wearing a cream-coloured coat and dark top, he nodded to confirm he understood the allegations against him.
A detective constable involved in the investigation said he could connect him with the charges.
Questioned by defence solicitor Eoghan McKenna, the officer said there were currently no other co-accused in the case.
It was also disclosed that Campbell has been questioned about alleged membership of the Ulster Volunteer Force.
Although presently not charged with belonging to an outlawed organisation, the court heard the matter has been referred to the Public Prosecution Service.
No bail application was made during the hearing, with Mr McKenna predicting that the case could take some time.
Noting the date of the alleged offences, the lawyer added: “It appears this matter may be related to political developments, namely the recent Haass discussions and more generally the debate involving the Attorney General.”
Campbell was remanded in custody to appear again by video-link on January 16. A bail application is expected to be mounted at that stage.
As he was led out of the dock, the accused’s supporters waved at him, and he gave them a thumbs-up sign.
Mr Fox had six children, while Mr Convie was a father-of-one.
Mr Convie’s father and two of Mr Fox’s sons were in court for the hearing.