Page last updated at 07:01 GMT, Friday, 12 June 2009 08:01 UK

Real IRA are 'republican Taliban'

Suzanne Breen received the claim of responsibility for two murders
Suzanne Breen received the admission of responsibility for two murders

A Northern Ireland journalist has told a court she will face "grave danger" if she has to give the police her notes linked to stories about the Real IRA.

Suzanne Breen, the northern editor of the Sunday Tribune, appeared at the High Court in Belfast.

Giving evidence the BBC's John Ware, said there was a difference between the Provisional IRA and the Real IRA.

"These guys are the Taliban of the republican movement, and we need to be clear about that," he claimed.

Ms Breen received the Real IRA's claim of responsibility for the murder of two soldiers in March and interviewed a representative of the group.

The police say they need the notes as part of the murder inquiry.

In May, a judge said he was "minded" to grant the police application to force the journalist to hand over the material.

However, he said his view could change once he heard arguments from her legal team.

Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, from London, were shot dead as they collected pizzas outside their barracks in Antrim on 7 March.

Among those who went into the witness box to back Ms Breen's stance was her editor, Noreen Hegarty, Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News, Liam Clake from the Sunday Times, and media commentator Roy Greenslade, a Professor of Journalism at London City University.

All of them were united in stressing how a journalist must honour any guarantee of confidentiality given to those who provide information.

A journalist making a witness statement to police and handing over their mobile phone records would be an even graver act, in republican eyes, and I would make myself an immediate target for assassination
Suzanne Breen

Ms Breen told the court how the National Union of Journalists code of conduct made it clear that confidentiality for sources must always be protected.

"Our job is to gather information and put it in the public domain," she said.

"It's not to act as agents of the state. We chose to become journalists, not to become detectives."

Ms Breen used the example of the fast food delivery men wounded in the gun attack on the soldiers to back her argument.

She said: "They deliberately shot the pizza men because in some ways simply to serve food to British soldiers... is regarded as an act of collaboration.

"A journalist making a witness statement to police and handing over their mobile phone records would be an even graver act, in republican eyes, and I would make myself an immediate target for assassination."

Counsel for the police argued that while the material may cause her professional concern it would be of "evidential value" to the police investigation.

He argued that the NUJ code carried no legal force, and claimed there was no current and immediate threat to life.

Any future and verified risk would place an obligation on the chief constable and other state agencies to provide protection, he accepted.

Judge Tom Burgess, the Recorder for Belfast, reserved judgment in the police application and indicated he will give his ruling early next week.



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