Joy Street Belfast

The veteran of Catholic civil rights protests was shot on Joy Street in Belfast city centre on April 1972.

Two former soldiers accused of murdering an Official IRA commander in Northern Ireland are asking for their identities to be withheld during court proceedings, a judge has been told.

The two are veterans of the Parachute Regiment and are both now in their 60s.

They are being prosecuted over the death of Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972.

As the case reached the floor of a courtroom for the first time, a Crown lawyer said the state had "not finalised" its response to the defence application for anonymity.

But district judge Fiona Bagnall ruled that the ex-paras will continue to be referred to as Soldier A and Soldier C until the application is considered at a hearing later this month.

Mr McCann's widow, Anne, and three of his four children - Aine, Feargal and Nuala - travelled from their homes in Galway to attend the brief opening hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

The two retired soldiers were not in court.

Mr McCann had been one of the Official IRA's most prominent activists in the early days of the Troubles.

The veteran of Catholic civil rights protests was shot by an Army patrol in Belfast city centre on April 1972.

In 1969 the IRA split into the Official IRA and Provisional IRA.

The Provisional movement went on to wage an intensive armed campaign throughout the Troubles.

The anonymity application will be considered by the court on December 20.