Reporters covering Real IRA arrested at gunpoint

Press Gazette has learned that the four BBC journalists arrested last weekend in Ireland were seized at gunpoint and had their film footage confiscated by the Irish police.

The BBC Northern Ireland team were arrested at gunpoint along with three other men in a van which was rammed by members of the Garda Síochána armed Emergency Response Unit (ERU) late on Saturday evening. Four more arrests were made on Sunday.

According to one well-placed source those arrested included BBC Spotlight producer Brendan McCourt, Spotlight reporter Declan Lawn and Panorama reporter Andy Martin.

There has been media speculation that the arrests, had been made as part of tightened security measures ahead of the Queen’s visit to Northern Ireland this week.

Local sources said the BBC crew was filming a Real IRA paramilitary show of strength in County Donegal. The arrests were made under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.

Released without charge

The BBC journalists were released without charge on Sunday. Three of the seven others have since been released without charge, but the Garda has sent its files to the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions.

There were conflicting accounts as to the nature of the meeting that had apparently taken place between the BBC journalists and the paramilitaries.

A source close to the Real IRA told Press Gazette that weapons would have been on display but would have taken away removed early on to avoid having incriminating evidence at the scene.

But a spokeswoman for BBC Northern Ireland said it was ‘inaccurate’to say that the team was filming a paramilitary show of strength. She refused to confirm the details of the arrest or if the Garda had seized the footage.

Press Gazette’s source said that footage seized by the Irish police may contain images of armed and masked men presenting themselves as members of the Real IRA.

The Garda said it would not comment on an ongoing investigation.

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