The Troubles were good to Thomas Murphy, Gerry Adams's 'decent friend' and 'good republican'.
18 Dec 2015Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy was a senior organising figure in the ‘South Armagh Brigade’ of the Provisional IRA'Slab' has never served time in jail but has become an enormously wealthy landowner and cattle dealer, and de facto owner of a network of fuel operations and property across Ireland and Britain.
During the 1970s, Thomas 'Slab' Murphy was a senior organising figure in the 'South Armagh Brigade' of the Provisional IRA, following in the footsteps of his father, Paddy, who was a member of the IRA in the War of Independence. Thomas was not known to take part in any attacks on soldiers or police, but was known for the continuance of his smuggling business.
The South Armagh brigade was one of the most active elements of the Northern IRA. It was responsible for the biggest single loss of life for the British Army since World War II when 18 members of the Parachute Regiment were killed in a double-bomb attack near Warrenpoint in August 1979. An innocent English tourist was also shot dead as the remaining soldiers overreacted to their losses.
The attack was the culmination of years of action by the South Armagh IRA which in the early stages of the Troubles, during the early to mid-1970s, often engaged British forces in prolonged and heavy gun battles.
British officers at the time likened the tight network of lanes and high hedges of south Armagh to the ground they had fought the Nazis in, in Normandy after D-Day.
Slab was a focus of attention for the British authorities not only for his involvement in the 'Movement', but also because of his open and large-scale involvement in smuggling.
The amount of money being raised through fuel-laundering throughout south Armagh and in particular around Slab's home right on the Border at Ballybinaby was so great that the British government passed an emergency piece of legislation, the Newry and Mourne Regulation of Hydrocarbon Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order in August 1990.
The law made it an offence to transport any form of hydrocarbon fuel along Larkins Road, on which Slab still lives in what, from the outside, appears to be an ordinary bungalow.
Larkins Road was the only thoroughfare in the United Kingdom in which it was an offence to drive an oil lorry. The law was never used against Murphy as he never drove any lorries containing fuel or much else.
Repeated raids were carried out on Slab's farm and extensive outbuildings and on diesel plants around south Armagh and north Louth but, with one or two exceptions, no one has served any deterrent prison sentence.
The IRA's fuel business turned south Armagh into a petro-chemical complex with dozens of small farms turned into diesel 'washing' plants, the farm buildings often rented for £1,000 in cash per week.
However, the residue of this trade is a disastrous level of pollution of the countryside. In recent weeks, the heavy rain has been literally washing diesel and other highly dangerous chemicals used in the 'washing' process out of soil and into streams and rivers.
The toxic waste from the diesel plants has for years been seeping into the Fane River and Lough Ross drinking water supplies that feed into the water taps of some 35,000 households in north Louth and south Armagh.
Slab's own home town of Crossmaglen receives its drinking water directly from Lough Ross, the same reservoir that the IRA fuel gangsters have been leeching toxic chemicals into for more than 20 years.
This is a legacy of the IRA in south Armagh that will take generations to clean up.
Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, whose farm straddles border, found guilty of failing to file tax returns in Ireland between 1996-2004
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
17 Dec 2015**See also: Will The Provos Stand By 'Slab'? - Ed MoloneyThomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, 66, faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced in January. (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA) An Irish farmer once named in court as a senior IRA commander has been convicted of tax fraud in the Republic.
Thomas “Slab” Murphy was found guilty at the special criminal court on Thursday of failing to make tax returns to Ireland’s Revenue Commissioners.
The 66-year-old, whom the Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, described as a “good republican”, will be sentenced in January.
Murphy from Hackballscross, County Louth, which is close to the border with Northern Ireland, had pleaded not guilty to nine charges of failing to file returns of his income, profits or gains and the actual source of his income to the inspector of taxes between 1996 to 2004.
But the three judges at the non-jury court in Dublin found Murphy guilty beyond all reasonable doubt on all nine offences.
The case came about after an investigation by Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau following a raid on his farm in 2006.
Murphy who was surrounded by a large group of supporters as well as members of his family was remanded on bail. He could face up to five years in jail.
In 1998 Murphy lost a libel appeal in Dublin court after the Sunday Times
alleged he was the director of the IRA’s bombing campaign in Britain as well as helping to import tonnes of weapons from Libya into Ireland during the 1980s.
According to a subsequent BBC investigation Murphy was estimated to control a fortune worth £40m, earned through diesel, cigarettes, grains and pigs.
Murphy, whose farm straddles Co Louth and Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, has never denied being a republican and has stressed his support for the peace process. The IRA’s South Armagh Brigade, which numerous books and documentaries have alleged Murphy commanded, has been loyal to the mainstream republican leadership and Sinn Féin.
Jim McDowellIrish Independent
14 Nov 2015Shock revelations about British army collusion with loyalist paramilitary death squads are set to rock the political institutions in Dublin and London.
The fresh information is understood to focus on personal and highly incriminating files compiled by Brian Nelson.Brian Nelson
He was recruited by British Military Intelligence (BMI) to infiltrate the outlawed Ulster Defence Association at its network of headquarters in Belfast.
A major story in the 'Sunday World' will link both the British military and the political establishment in London to UDA death squads headed up by now-deceased loyalist paramilitary godfathers, like 'brigadiers' John McMichael and Tommy 'Tucker' Lyttle, plus a battery of other UDA so-called brigadiers who are still alive.
Nelson, who died from cancer in 2003, kept a concise and meticulous handwritten journal, running to 120 pages, of his role as a British army/UDA double agent during the darkest days of the so-called 'Dirty War' in Northern Ireland.
Those files reveal how he twice set up TD Gerry Adams for murder, as well as the now Stormont deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, among some 50 others.Thatcher
And Nelson writes that one of his BMI-sanctioned undercover operations, a botched UDA plot to smuggle arms and rockets from South Africa, went "right to the top".
Margaret Thatcher, who the Provos tried to murder in their Brighton hotel bombing in 1984, was Britain's prime minister at the time.
Nelson also said that his spymaster British army 'Boss' told him to bomb the Republic.
That was a full 13 years after the other main loyalist terror gang, the UVF, had bombed Dublin and Monaghan, killing 33 innocent people and leaving more than 200 injured.
In 1974, Nelson was jailed for the torture of an innocent Catholic man, Gerald Higgins, who subsequently died.
Released from jail after serving less than half of his seven-year sentence, Nelson tried to start a new life in West Germany.
But he was approached by the BMI and placed back in Belfast as a paid 'supertout' to re-join the UDA.
Using his previous British military background (he had served in the Black Watch regiment), Nelson flew up the ranks of the killer terror gang, which was responsible for over 300 murders during the nadir of the Troubles, many of them solely sectarian attacks on Catholics.
Nelson became the UDA's chief 'IO', or intelligence officer. He received montages and lists of IRA suspects, giving their personal details, from his BMI handlers.
And he personally scouted out targets for assassination - at the same time reporting back to, and colluding with, British intelligence service agents.
Detectives investigating shootings in Derry in 1972 arrest 66-year-old in AntrimThe Guardian
10 Nov 2015The Bloody Sunday memorial in Derry. (Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian) A former British soldier has been arrested by detectives investigating the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972, sources said.
A 66-year-old man was arrested in County Antrim on Tuesday morning by officers from the force’s legacy investigations branch.
Security sources confirmed the detained pensioner was an ex-soldier.
Thirteen civil rights demonstrators were killed by members of the Parachute Regiment on the streets of Derry in January 1972. Another victim of the shootings died months later.
It is the first arrest made by officers since their murder investigation into the events of Bloody Sunday was launched in 2012.
The probe was initiated after a government-commissioned inquiry undertaken by Lord Saville found that none of victims was posing a threat to soldiers when they were shot.
Following the publication of the Saville report in 2010, David Cameron, the prime minister, apologised for the army’s actions, branding them “unjustified and unjustifiable”.
In September, the PSNI announced their intention to interview seven former soldiers about their involvement on the day.
The suspect detained on Tuesday has been taken to a police station in Belfast for questioning.
The officer leading the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Ian Harrison, said the arrest marked a “new phase in the overall investigation”.
He said the phase would continue for “some time”.
Patrick MurphyIrish News
07 November 2015 The solution is simple. If there are going to be several competing centenary commemorations of the 1916 Rising next year, we can solve the problem of how to accommodate them all by doing what we now do best in Ireland - re-writing history.
We can create a revised version of the Rising, so that each group can justify its claim to be the true inheritors of the 1916 ideals. Welcome to Ireland, the land of instant history, where facts are flexible and the truth is a far-off planet.
So here is the (not very) authorised history of the 1916 Rising.
It all began when Pearse was walking down O'Connell Street one day, which was very hard to do at that time, because there was no O'Connell Street.
So he texted James Connolly to ask: "Where am I?" ("That's ridiculous", I hear you shout. You have a point, but is it any more ridiculous than claiming that the IRA's thirty-year war was for "equality" and not for a united Ireland? If we are going to re-write history, we may as well do it properly.)
Connolly replied by writing a pamphlet (Marxists love writing pamphlets) saying that he was busy preparing to serve King (meaning England) and Kaiser (Germany).
(We have reversed Connolly's views to accommodate almost every commemoration next year. Nearly everyone in Ireland now accepts the legitimacy of London rule in the north and Berlin rule, through the EU, across the whole island. So with a swift battering of the keyboard, all groups can now celebrate Irish "independence".)
While passing the GPO, Pearse noticed that it would be a wonderful setting for a rising. But while he was marvelling at the decor, he heard that Roger Casement had been arrested in Kerry.
Casement was later marched through the streets of Tralee to the Dublin train and not a single soul tried to rescue him. "Don't worry, Roger," the townsfolk would have shouted had they bothered to come out. "One day there will be a stadium named after you and your name will be on the lips of every planning official and health and safety officer in the north."
(I'm not sure which group we have re-written that bit for, but it might come in useful.)
So Pearse said: "Let us organise a rising, but it shall be a peaceful rising, because violence is wrong." (That covers the contradiction of preaching peace, while celebrating violence.) So they began their peaceful rising by entering into dialogue with a post office clerk and then engaging in bi-lateral talks, followed by a plenary session - just like they do at Stormont.
They later published the GPO House Agreement whereby the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) would join with all rebel groups to form the IRA, which would later revert to the IRB (Irish Republican Butterfly).They agreed that there should be an IRA for everyone in Ireland.
These IRAs would include the Real, the Surreal, the Continuity, the Intermittent, the Very Disruptive but Really Rather Nice and the Low-calorie, Sugar-free IRA. (I made most of those up, but that does not mean they do not exist. So all dissident groups are historically covered for their ceremonies. All we need now is justification for the individual party political commemorations.)
As the rising began Michael Collins said he would die for Fine Gael, so that it could invent austerity. Connolly said his death would be for the Labour Party, which would help to implement that austerity and de Valera said he would die, but not just yet, so that he could found Fianna Fáil to bankrupt the country.
All the other leaders decided to die for Stormont, so that people could become ministers without standing for election.
So there you have it. Our revised history of 1916 will now allow the various commemorative groups to march, make speeches, pontificate and scorn all rival commemorations.
However, the one thing which none of them will do is to solve the unemployment crisis in Ballymena. Commemorating the rising is seen as an acceptable substitute for failing to implement what it was intended to achieve, including for example, the Proclamation's objective of "the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation".
So the real inheritors of 1916 are neither politicians nor paramilitaries. They are those who, by their actions and principles, commemorate the rising in their daily work. These include for example, the community and voluntary sector, charities, credit unions, GAA clubs, Conradh na Gaeilge and the thousands of ordinary people who make Ireland a better place to live in.
Their history does not need re-writing.
The army double agent was known as Stakeknife, responsible for finding and killing those it believed passed information to the British security services during the Troubles
By AgencyThe Telegraph
22 Oct 2015Fred Scappaticci pictured in west Belfast in 2003 (Photo: PACEMAKER BELFAST)The IRA's most senior security force informer is to be investigated over at least 24 murders.
The army double agent was known as Stakeknife, a shadowy figure himself responsible for finding and killing those it believed passed information to the British security services during the Troubles.
At the heart of victims' concerns is whether those deaths could have been prevented and whether collusion in murder penetrated to the top of the British Government.
Freddie Scappaticci has strongly denied being the man behind the codename.
A police watchdog has passed information to prosecutors after examining the circumstances of murders attributed to Stakeknife's IRA "internal security team".
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Northern Ireland, Barra McGrory QC, asked police to investigate potential offences committed by Stakeknife.
He said: "I have outlined today extremely serious matters, perhaps the most significant in my time as DPP.
"I have not taken the steps to commence investigations lightly but, rather, consider they must be taken to ensure that public confidence can be maintained in the office of the DPP and in the wider criminal justice system."
He added a common link across a significant number of potential crimes, including murder, was the alleged involvement of Stakeknife.
"I confirm today that I have requested that the chief constable investigate a range of potential offences which relate to the alleged activities of an agent commonly known as Stakeknife."
Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman is investigating the murders of alleged informers by the IRA and the potential role of Stakeknife. It passed information to the DPP, which resulted in today's announcement.
Former Met Police commissioner Lord Stevens led three government investigations into security force collusion.
Relatives of the victims have pressed for a fourth more comprehensive and independent probe or public inquiry.
Frank Mulhern, whose IRA member son Joe was discovered in 1993 in a ditch near the Irish border in Co Tyrone with his body riddled by bullets, said there needed to be an independent investigation by an international police force.
He added: "It will continue to be covered up until we expose it and put a stop to it."
He said he had been pursuing the matter for many years and still hoped to receive justice.
"If he (the killer) was not being protected he would be in jail now. Of course he is being protected, even a blind man can see that."
Mr McGrory requested two separate investigations.
"The first will be an investigation of broad scope. This will seek to examine the full range of potential offences that may have been committed by Stakeknife.
"It will also include an investigation into any potential criminal activity that may have been carried out by security service agents."
• I'm no spy, says the man named as Stakeknife
PSNI ACC Will Kerr said police had received a referral from the Director of Public Prosecutions which the service was addressing.
"It would be inappropriate to comment further," he added.
Mr McGrory said Northern Ireland's attorney general John Larkin QC had recently been in contact with his office asking what action prosecutors may take about a particular murder implicating Stakeknife.
• What is the truth behind the story of Stakeknife?
"I have identified one case where I consider that there is now sufficient information available at this point to review a prosecutorial decision. This relates to a case involving an allegation of perjury in 2003.
"I have serious concerns in relation to this decision. Having reviewed all the available evidence I consider that the original decision did not take into account relevant considerations and also took into account irrelevant factors.
"I have concluded that the original decision was not within the range of decisions that could reasonably be taken in the circumstances."
The decision has been set aside and the DPP asked the chief constable to provide further material.
Prosecutor tells police to open inquiry into crimes including murder allegedly linked to British state’s agent inside IRA, named as Freddie Scappaticci
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
21 Oct 2015Freddie Scappaticci in 1987. (Photograph: Pacemaker) One of the British state’s most important spies inside the Provisional IRA codenamed “Stakeknife” is to be investigated by police over a range of serious offences, including murder, while operating as an agent.
Northern Ireland’s director of public prosecutions, Barra McGrory, announced on Wednesday that he had instructed the region’s chief constable to open an inquiry into crimes allegedly linked to the spy named as Freddie Scappaticci.
It is understood the DPP has informed the chief constable that the police investigation should include a fresh look at up to 20 killings by the IRA in connection with the Stakeknife controversy.
McGrory’s decision has opened up the possibility that the Belfast republican accused of being a key informer for Britain while running the IRA’s “spy-catching” unit could be questioned about his secret career in open court.
McGrory said he had taken the decision after receiving information from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, whose office investigated complaints about the police handling of murders and violent interrogations which families alleged were linked to the state agent.
McGrory said: “The ombudsman has carried out a comprehensive analysis of material emanating from the three investigations carried out by Lord Stevens into allegations of collusion. A common link across a significant number of potential crimes, including murder, was the alleged involvement of an agent of military intelligence codenamed ‘Stakeknife’.
“In addition, the attorney general of Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, has recently contacted me about a murder case to inquire about any action the Public Prosecution Service may be considering. This is a case in which the same agent is potentially implicated.
“In the light of all of this information, I concluded that I must exercise my power to request that the chief constable investigates matters which may involve offences committed against the law of Northern Ireland and did so on August 11, 2015.”
The DPP confirmed he was also instructing the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, George Hamilton, to hold a separate investigation into allegations of perjury relating to a case connected to the “Stakeknife” scandal back in 2003.
Stakeknife was allegedly in charge of the so-called “head hunters”, the IRA unit that searched for, tracked down, brutally interrogated and then killed suspected informers.
Stakeknife was said to command a tightly knit group of men who were responsible for the deaths of many IRA members, some informers, others who it turned out were “set up” by the agent, who were murdered, their bodies normally dumped on side roads along the south Armagh border after hours and days of torture.
A number of families of IRA members shot dead as informers after interrogation by the “head hunters” have made complaints to the police ombudsman claiming that Stakeknife’s handlers in the security forces failed to use their agent inside the Provisionals to prevent their murders. Many of these families have alleged that their loved ones were “sacrificed” by the security forces to keep Stakeknife at the head of the IRA’s counter-intelligence unit where he could provide the state with invaluable insider information.
Meanwhile the DPP and the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland said they had agreed that each of the two investigations be referred back to the police ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, so he can consider if any further inquiry should be made into the actions of the police in this controversy.
McGrory concluded: “Before making this announcement, I have had a number of meetings with the chief constable, the police ombudsman and the attorney general and we are agreed in our commitment to ensure that the public should be able to have full confidence in the criminal justice system. We will each play our role independently, openly and with integrity.”
After being named as one of Britain’s key spies inside the Provisional IRA in 2003, Scappaticci left Northern Ireland. He publicly denied he was an agent. Since then he has gone to court to prevent the media from identifying where he now lives and barring journalists from approaching him for interviews.
Scappaticci, the grandson of Italian immigrants now in his 70s, was said to be a “walk-in” agent who volunteered to work for the army’s military intelligence branch the Force Research Unit in the 1980s after a major falling out with IRA leaders in Belfast.
An audio tape posted on the internet, allegedly from General Sir John Wilsey, who was commanding officer of the British army in Northern Ireland between 1990 and 1993, recorded that the military regarded Scappaticci as “our most important secret”.
Wilsey is reported to have said on the tape: “He was a golden egg, something that was very important to the army. We were terribly cagey about Fred.”
Wife of executed Easter Rising leader reveals disdain for Casement on secret tape
Ronan McGreevyIrish Times
21 Oct 2015Sir Roger Casement, the British aristocrat, “made a fool of himself” in his dealings with the Germans, according to the wife of executed Easter Rising leader Tom Clarke.
Kathleen Clarke described Casement as someone who really knew nothing about Ireland and who considered himself a leader of the Irish Volunteers despite being nothing of the kind.
The interview with Ms Clarke was recorded in 1968 by Fr Louis O’Kane and has been stored in the Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive in Armagh until now.
A full transcript of its contents has never been released previously.
The Fr Louis O’Kane collection includes some 120 interviews with about 70 veterans or witnesses of the War of Independence, nearly all from the North.Kathleen Clarke
In late 1914 and early 1915 Mr Casement went to Limburg prisoner-of-war camp in Germany in an attempt to raise a brigade among Irishmen who had been captured early in the first World War.
He hoped it would be the vanguard of a German invasion force which would liberate Ireland from the British, but only 56 out of some 2,000 prisoners joined.
Mrs Clarke told Fr O’Kane that Casement had no mandate to do such a thing. “He went off to Germany and started things that the revolutionary group here didn’t want,” she said.‘Aristocratic kind’
“They didn’t ask Germany for men. All they asked them for was arms. And he was trying to get men.” She described Casement as the “aristocratic kind and he assumed that when he went into any movement, ipso facto, he was one of our leaders, if not the leader . . . and what could he know of Ireland, when he was all the time out of it.”
However, Casement was successful in securing arms for the rebellion although the Aud Norge, the ship which carried the arms, was intercepted by the Royal Navy on Good Friday 1916 and scuttled.Roger Casement
Mrs Clarke said her husband had said, while awaiting execution in Kilmainham Gaol, that the Germans “to the last letter of the law” had sent the arms they promised and deserved credit. Mrs Clarke told Fr O’Kane her husband had made up his mind years before the first World War to start a rebellion if war broke out between Britain and Germany.
She and her husband only disagreed on one thing – they were living in New York in 1907 and he wanted to come back to Ireland but she initially refused.
“I said, ‘You’ve done enough for your country, as much as any man could be expected’ and he said, ‘You can never do enough for your country’,” she said.
Mrs Clarke said to her husband: “I don’t want to go. If you’re taking me home to a nice quiet life, I’ll be satisfied to go. I’d love to go, but if you’re going home for a revolution, I’m likely to lose you and I don’t want to lose you.”
She went back understanding the consequences. “Once I surrendered then I went into it wholeheartedly, even thoughI realised I couldn’t see, [how we would win] . . . with the small might that we could throw up against the immense might of the Empire.”Thomas Clarke
Mrs Clarke became a formidable republican in her own right after her husband was executed in 1916.
She was a founder member of Fianna Fáil in 1926, the first woman mayor of Dublin, a TD and senator. She lived until 1972.
She was anti-Treaty and was interned by the government during the Civil War, but claims in the interview that she tried to persuade the men who were occupying the Four Courts in 1922 to lay down their arms.
She told Michael Collins she would support the Treaty on the basis that it gave Ireland the “machinery to work out to full freedom”.
In June 1922 she went to the Four Courts to remonstrate with the anti-Treaty forces who were occupying it. The occupation led to the Civil War.Conference
“It’s a challenge to Mick Collins and I know Mick well enough that he’ll only accept that challenge until such time as he can get an army together and kick you out of here. Are you going to wait for that?” she told them.
Liam Mellows, who was occupying the Four Courts at the time and was later executed by the Free State government, responded: “You’re only a woman, what would you know about it?”
The recording is available to visitors of the Cardinal Ó Fiaich library on Moy Road, Armagh, (the project is supported by the UK Heritage Lottery Fund).
Helen Litton, a grandniece of Kathleen Clarke, will give a talk about the relationship between Tom and Kathleen at a conference in the library on November 14th.
Appeal over verdict that UK justified in reneging on commitment to set up tribunal
Alan ErwinIrish Times
14 Oct 2015 Murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane’s widow is to seeking to overturn a ruling that British prime minister David Cameron acted lawfully in refusing to hold a public inquiry into the killing.
Geraldine Finucane has lodged an appeal against the Belfast High Court verdict that the British government was justified in reneging on a commitment to set up such a tribunal.
Her lawyer, Peter Madden, claimed internal communications shows former Secretary of State Owen Paterson had “closed his mind” to the type of inquiry previously promised.Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, who is seeking to overturn a ruling on a refusal to hold a public inquiry into the killing. (Photograph: PA)
Mr Madden said: “He had engaged in a sham exercise, inviting representations from the family as to the model of inquiry which would be acceptable to them in circumstances where he had absolutely no intention of establishing such an inquiry.”
Mr Finucane was gunned down by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his wife and their three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989. His family have campaigned for a full examination of alleged security force collusion with the killers.
Mrs Finucane took the prime minister to court after he ruled out a public inquiry in 2011. Instead, Mr Cameron commissioned QC Sir Desmond de Silva to review all documents relating to the case and produce a narrative of what happened.
Sir Desmond’s report confirmed agents of the state were involved in the murder and that it should have been prevented.
However, it concluded there had been no overarching state conspiracy. The Finucane family rejected the findings as a whitewash and accused the government of unlawfully reneging on previous commitments.
Pledges to set up such a tribunal, based on the recommendation of retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, were made by a former Labour government in 2004 and reaffirmed in the following years, it was contended.
Earlier this year Mr Justice Stephens ruled Mr Cameron had acted lawfully in refusing to hold a public inquiry. He found Mrs Finucane had received a clear and unambiguous promise that an inquiry would take place.
But he backed the government’s case that other public interest issues, including political developments in Northern Ireland and the potential financial pressures of a costly inquiry, were enough to frustrate her expectation.
Despite throwing out Mrs Finucane’s legal bid to force the authorities to publicly examine her husband’s killing, the judge also said the state had not fully met its human rights obligation to investigate.
Now the case is to go before the Court of Appeal for a further hearing. Confirming on Wednesday that papers have been lodged, Mr Madden insisted: “A full independent and international tribunal of inquiry, where documents will examined in public and witnesses shall be compelled to attend and be cross examined by Geraldine’s lawyers, remains the only model capable of achieving the truth of Pat’s murder.”
By Vincent KearneyBBC News
2 October 2015Margaret Keeley claims Freddie Scappaticci interrogated and falsely imprisoned her in Belfast in 1994 An attempt to have part of a legal action held in secret against a man alleged to have been the most high ranking agent within the Provisional IRA will be heard early next year.
A woman claims she was interrogated and falsely imprisoned by Freddie Scappaticci.
He is alleged to have been an army agent codenamed Stakeknife.
Margaret Keeley is suing him, the Northern Ireland's police force and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for damages.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the MoD want some of the court hearings to be held behind closed doors for "national security" reasons.
Margaret Keeley claims the police and MoD both knowingly allowed her to be interrogated and threatened by a man working as an agent for the state over a two-day period in the New Lodge in Belfast in 1994.
She is claiming damages for personal injuries, false imprisonment, assault, battery, trespass to the person and misfeasance in public office.
The PSNI and the MoD are seeking to use what are called "closed material procedures" for the first time a civil case in Northern Ireland.
This would allow their lawyers to introduce sensitive information that could only be seen by the judge and a security-vetted "special advocate" who would be appointed to represent Margaret Keeley.
The advocate would not be allowed to give her or her legal team precise details about the sensitive material introduced during the secret section of the trial.
The police and the MoD argue that closed hearings are essential because some of the material is so sensitive it could potentially damage national security.
At the High Court in Belfast on Friday, Mr Justice Stephens said the application will be heard in February.
Freddie Scappaticci, the grandson of an Italian immigrant who came to Northern Ireland in search of work, denies he was an army agent.
An initial request to include him in the legal action was refused, but that decision was later overturned on appeal.
In his judgement overturning the initial decision, Mr Justice McCloskey said the allegations being made gave rise to "acute public concern and interest... and raise the spectre of a grave and profound assault on the rule of law and an affront to public conscience".
3 October 2015Forty years ago, on October 3, 1975, Dutch industrialist Dr Tiede Herrema was flagged down at a garda checkpoint as he drove to an early morning meeting at the Ferenka steel plant at Annacotty, Co Limerick.
When the chief executive of the factory complex confirmed his name, the 'guard' whipped out a revolver and bundled the 54-year-old into a getaway car. A phone call to the Dutch embassy demanded the release of three republican prisoners from prison. Failing the release of the trio, the industrialist would be "executed" in 48 hours.
It quickly became apparent to the authorities that the daring crime had been committed for largely personal motives. The bogus garda was rogue republican bomber Eddie Gallagher, on the run from the law north and south, and from ex-IRA pals now gunning for him.Abduction victim Dr Tiede Herrema
One of the three Gallagher wanted set free was his partner in crime, Rose Dugdale, who'd given birth to their son in Limerick Prison 10 months earlier. Gallagher's young accomplice, Marian Coyle, sought the release of boyfriend Kevin Mallon, who was serving time for IRA crimes.
The immediate response of Liam Cosgrave's FG/Labour government was that there would be no deals with terrorists, although they left open the suggestion that they wouldn't stand in the way of anyone - meaning Ferenka - that wanted to try paying a cash ransom.
The economy was on its knees after six years of Troubles and the ongoing slump from the 1973 oil crisis. Quite apart from the human tragedy, the kidnap and threatened murder of the boss of one of Ireland's biggest employers would surely send foreign firms packing and lower the boom on any future inward investment. The fate of the nation hung in the balance.
Industrial strife was the scourge of the time and the fitters at Ferenka abandoned their current unofficial strike to join a mass march through the streets of Limerick to demand Herrema's safe release. The city's Lord Mayor pleaded with the republican movement - who'd denied any involvement - to make a truce with the State and use their resources "to find this man and bring him back, otherwise 1,200 people will be out of work".
The 48-hour deadline passed and in the eternity that followed everyone feared the worst. Then, as hope was fading, fresh demands came through, including the shut-down of the strikebound Ferenka factory. The kidnappers hoped that the factory's giant parent company would lean on the Irish government to grant their demands, secure Herrema's release and get production rolling again. That hope was wildly misplaced.
The plant was shut down and the Army and Gardaí focused on the greatest manhunt in the history of the State, with troops posted at every port, airport and border back road, but all to no avail. In the absence of any hard leads, wild rumours filled the vacuum, including groundless whispers that the kidnappers were threatening to cut off one of their victim's feet.
Finally, after two weeks gone to ground, the kidnappers released a tape of Herrema's voice. He confirmed he was in good health. It was accompanied by new demands for a £2m ransom and a flight to the Middle East.
After two weeks in the dark, the nation awoke on a Sunday morning to radio bulletins of a dawn raid by Special Branch backed by snipers on a terraced house in the Kildare town of Monasterevin. As the guards smashed down the front door, Gallagher and Coyle retreated, shooting wildly, to an upstairs bedroom with their hostage. By early afternoon the sleepy estate in Monasterevin was swamped with security forces and media. One paper wrote: "The Hazel Hotel nearly ran out of food and by 2pm the only fare on the menu was haddock." That flippancy quickly flagged after a haggard Tiede Herrema came to a window and told the police to stay away. Everyone settled in for what would be a long siege.
After several days the kidnappers began accepting food placed in a shopping basket hoisted on a lowered rope. Days crawled by into weeks. When a demand came for fresh clothes, including three pairs of underpants and a petticoat, speculation mounted that they were sprucing themselves up for surrender. It turned out they just wanted clean undies. A failed attempt at another dawn raid through a back window left one detective wounded in the hand.
Then, on Day 17, the kidnappers asked for headache tablets. Hours later they threw their guns out the window and came out. Gallagher thought he had meningitis and asked for medical help. Herrema seemed in fine fettle. He flew home to the Netherlands, where he forgave his captors, saying: "They could have been my own children. They must have been through desperate times to come to this."
Now aged 94, Herrema has maintained close ties to Ireland, having been made an honorary Irish citizen shortly after his ordeal.
The kidnappers and their accomplices received a total of 71 years behind bars. Gallagher was reunited with his lover Rose Dugdale in Limerick Jail, where in 1978 they became the first convicted prisoners in the history of the State to wed behind bars. Dugdale was released in 1980, 10 years ahead of her husband.
In 2005, Gallagher recalled those turbulent times as "a bit like taking a stroll through a reptile pit".
**Idiocy and doublespeak in the North, as usual.
Eamon SweeneyDerry Journal
24 Sept 2015
**Photos and video on-siteA Freedom of Information request to view draft proposals on how deal with the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict has been refused, the ‘Journal’ can reveal.
The news comes as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers yesterday confirmed that, as had been previously been suspected victims’ relatives, that those guilty of Troubles-related murders will be able to confess and then walk free. Victims’ relatives will also not be notified that any such disclosures will have been made.
The Secretary of State said that in order to encourage perpetrators to come forward structures agreed during the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) last year will mean confessions will not be made known to victims’ and that any information given over will not be admissable in legal proceedings.
However, Theresa Villiers said that confessors could still face prosecution if evidence comes to light from other avenues.
It has also been confirmed that the five political parties in the Stormont Executive-DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance, as well as the British and Irish Governments all agreed to these proposals last December as part of the SHA negotiations.
Yet, according to the Secretary of State the proposals do not amount to a general amnesty for those on all sides who carried out murders during the Troubles.
“There is no amnesty in this paper. There won’t be an amnesty in the bill, an amnesty was rejected by the Northern Ireland parties during the Stormont House talks-that is not the right way forward,” she said.
Legislation setting the way forward in respect of dealing with the past is expected to come before Parliament this autumn.
However, a Freedom of Information request seeking to view the nature of the proposals has been refused by Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice.
The request to Department of Justice asked for a copy of the draft proposals regarding dealing with the past within the SHA.
In response, the Department of Justice gave reasons for and against the disclosure of the proposals.
In the end, and despite obvious public interest on the issue, the request was however refused even though the refusal notes that the upcoming proposals could have a significant effect on the general public.
The Department of Justice said: “Private space is required to enable the Stormont House Implementation group to debate and explore the full range of policies and options arising in the Stormont House Agreement.
“Releasing information about policies is likely to prejudice such development and subsequent implementation and could allowed targeted lobbying by certain groups that could inhibit objective decisions being made.
“Disclosure could compromise future consultation and thwart the exchange of ideas.
“Although the proposed policies will involve changes which could have a significant effect on the general public, the disclosure of the information may have an adverse effect on the policy makers in that they would be less likely to provide full and frank advice or opinions on policy proposals.”
The response to the Freedom of Information request also noted that “invitations have been extended to relevant parties to participate in bilateral meetings regarding the establishment of the Historical Inquiries Unit and changes to legacy inquests.”
The response concludes: “It is our view that public interest in protecting the policy making activities outweighs the public interest in releasing the information.”
Relatives of Derry victim’s of the Troubles have long noted their suspicions that a final deal in dealing with the past will however amount to an amnesty for killers.
Kate Nash, whose brother William was shot dead by members of the British Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday and who father Alex was severely wounded coming to his son’s aid recently told the ‘Journal’: “We are just collateral damage to them. We cannot let them dismiss the pain our father suffered after the murder of our brother William.
“Every single party has betrayed us. It is being denied that this is an amnesty, but that is what it is.”
The Northern Ireland Office had recently dismissed what has now been confirmed as accurate by the Secretary of State as “grossly misleading and highly irresponsible reporting”.
Theresa Villiers has however said that plans on how to deal with the past will not be activated until political resolution is found at Stormont, in particular on welfare reform. The policy paper outlined by Ms Villiers also contains proposed legislation required for an oral archive to document the history of the conflict.
22 Sept 2015New freephone number for suicide prevention charity People struggling to cope with the pressures of life have a new free helpline number for calling the Samaritans.
Last year the UK suicide prevention charity’s volunteers responded to more than five million calls for help by phone, email and through face-to-face contact in its 201 branch offices.
However, there has been concern that call charges are a barrier preventing people from accessing the service when they need it the most.
The change has been supported by the Big Lottery Fund and Vodafone, and the cooperation of the major telecommunications companies.The new number is 116 123 and calls to this helpline do not appear on phone bills.
By Sean O'RiordanIrish Examiner
21 Sept 2015A series of improvements are being planned for the ambush site in mid-Cork where Michael Collins was shot dead by Anti-Treaty Forces on August 22, 1922.
Cork County Council’s architects department is planning to upgrade the Béal na Bláth site next year as part of the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Rising.
Conor Nelligan, the council’s heritage officer, said the extent of the upgrade would depend on funding, but at this stage it looks as though the council will carry out road improvement works; landscaping; put up interpretive boards; and generally freshen up the area. The road will be realigned, providing extra safety and additional parking opportunities.
Mr Neligan said there were no plans at this stage to build an interpretive centre on the site, especially as the council is preparing to open a museum in Clonakilty to commemorate the War of Independence hero.
It had been expected that museum — which is in a three-story house in Emmet Square, close to where Collins once lived — would open late this year. But Mr Neligan said it now seemed likely it would be next year.
The centre will display a large amount of Collins memorabilia and visitors to the centre will be able to view footage on screens, bringing his contribution to local and national history to life. It is expected to be a big draw for tourists.
As part of the council- organised 1916 centenary commemorations, a new play Michael Collins, with the working title The Big Fella
, is expected to be launched by GDI Productions.
Meanwhile, in Kilmurry — which is just two miles from Béal na Bláth — the locals are preparing a number of events for next year, which will include officially opening a museum on Easter Sunday.
It will have a strong focus on the War of Independence including artifacts connected to Béal na Bláth and the Kilmichael ambush.
The latter took place in November 1920 when 17 RIC/Auxiliaries were killed in a controversial attack led by IRA Cork No 3 Brigade, commanded by Tom Barry.
The Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association is also planning to provide tours of the area’s War of Independence and Civil War sites and, in association with Ballinhassig Historical Society, carry out a re-enactment of a Volunteer march through the village. Both these events are pencilled in for March 27.
Meanwhile, Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage is organising an open meeting at 8.30pm on Wednesday to examine how Clonakilty can commemorate the Easter Rising.
The meeting will be held at the former Boys’ National School in the town, (now the Parish Centre), where three past pupils who participated in the Rising itself in Dublin were taught.
Michael Collins, Con O’Donovan, and Seán Hurley, (the only Corkman killed during Easter Week in the fighting in Dublin), were all pupils at the school before they left as young teenagers.
All local organisations, schools and groups, as well as interested individuals, are encouraged to attend the open meeting.
By Niall MurrayIrish Examiner
17 Sept 2015The final journey of 1916 rebel Thomas Kent will begin this evening when his remains lie in State close to where he lay buried in a prison yard for nearly a century.
Thousands are expected to attend at the chapel at Collins Barracks on the northside of Cork City, where his coffin will be brought for a 6pm prayer service to be attended by his nieces and other descendants.
The chapel is expected to stay open until after 9pm to cater for the large crowds expected to file past and pay their respects.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will deliver the graveside oration after tomorrow afternoon’s State funeral about 30km away at St Nicholas’ Church in Castlelyons, near Fermoy. It will also be attended by President Michael D Higgins.Thomas Kent: Final journey begins today.
Kent was executed on May 9, 1916, at the military detention barracks adjoining what is now Collins Barracks, after being found guilty of taking part in the Rising. When the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) came to arrest the 51-year-old local Irish Volunteers leader and his brothers at their home near Castlelyons in the early hours of May 2, Head Constable William Rowe was shot dead in a gun battle.
A brother, David, was injured and after their surrender another brother, Richard, was shot and later died after he tried to escape. Thomas Kent was found guilty of rebellion in a secret court martial in which a fourth brother, William, was acquitted. David was later sentenced to five years’ penal servitude after his death sentence was commuted, but he was released in June 1917.St Nicholas’ Church and grounds in Castlelyons, Co Cork, in advance of the State funeral of Thomas Kent, with the Kent family tomb third from the foreground. Full military honours will be given at tomorrow’s reinterment in the Kent family plot. (Picture: Denis Minihane)
The site where family members have held annual anniversary ceremonies for decades, at what is now Cork Prison, was confirmed in June as the shallow grave in which Thomas Kent had been buried. An archaeological dig located human remains that were confirmed as his by DNA analysis.Laying of a wreath at Collins Barracks, Cork, on May 11, 1933. Kent was executed at the military detention barracks on May 9, 1916.
The remains will be brought back there briefly tomorrow morning before the cortege departs to Castlelyons, where full military honours will be given at the reinterment in the Kent family plot.
The State funeral will be televised live on RTÉ One from 1.45pm tomorrow, and gardaí have advised anyone intending to travel to Castlelyons to arrive by 12.45pm due to strict traffic arrangements and limited viewing space.
Wright is believed to have been abducted, interrogated, shot dead and buried in secret by the IRA in 1972
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
15 Set 2015Friends and family carry the remains of one Séamus Wright. (Photograph: Cathal Mcnaughton/Reuters) The tragedy of Northern Ireland’s “disappeared” was all the more painful because so many of these victims were young, a priest has told mourners at the funeral of an IRA victim missing presumed dead for more than four decades.
After 43 years ex-IRA member Séamus Wright was finally laid to rest in his native Belfast on Tuesday.
He vanished in 1972 alongside Kevin McKee after the IRA suspected the pair of working as undercover agents for a secret army unity known as the Military Reconnaissance Force, which was carrying out a covert war against the IRA in Belfast during the Troubles’ bloodiest year.
They are believed to have been abducted from their homes in west Belfast, driven across the border, interrogated, shot dead and buried in secret.
DNA tests confirmed that remains found this summer at a bog in County Meath in the Irish Republic were those of Wright and McKee, whose funeral took place in Belfast on Monday.
At a requiem mass for Wright at St Agnes’s parish church in the Andersonstown area of west Belfast on Tuesday, mourners heard that Wright was a “deeply committed” family man with a “strong religious dimension” to his life.
The parish priest said: “He died a young man – just 25 years of age – and the death of a young person seems to hit us harder.” In his homily during mass Father Brendan Callanan added: “It has taken a long time for us to come to this point but we are here.”
Digging is continuing at the site where their remains were found. The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains believes the remains of another victim, the former monk turned IRA activist Joe Lynskey, are also in Coghalstown bog.
The most notorious case of the disappeared was that of Jean McConville, a widow and mother of 10 who was kidnapped, taken in a car from west Belfast across the border to the republic, shot dead and buried at a beach in Co Louth.
The former Belfast IRA commander and hunger striker Brendan Hughes claimed the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, had given the order for McConville to be killed and buried in secret to avoid political embarrassment for the republican movement. Adams has always denied any connection to the McConville murder or even being in the IRA.
Four people remain on the disappeared list, three of them believed to have been kidnapped and killed by the IRA. The missing presumed dead include SAS Captain Robert Nairac, who vanished while on a covert mission in South Armagh.
The other person on the list is Séamus Ruddy, a County Down schoolteacher and member of the Irish Republican Socialist party. He was abducted, tortured and killed by a faction of the Irish National Liberation Army in Paris in the 1980s. Despite searches in the French capital and in a forest in Normandy, Ruddy’s remains have never been found.
14 Sept 2015Relatives of one of the "Disappeared", victims of Northern Ireland's Troubles, have given him a Christian burial more than 40 years after his murder.
Kevin McKee's remains lay in bog land in the Irish Republic for almost 43 years before they were found earlier this year along with another man the IRA shot and secretly buried during the conflict.
IRA men Mr McKee, 17, and Seamus Wright, 25, both vanished in Belfast in October 1972.
The IRA shot them on the suspicion they were working as British agents.
Fr Michael Murtagh, former Rector of Clonard Monastery, told mourners who had packed into St Peter's Cathedral in West Belfast: "We are here to give Kevin McKee a Christian burial. This is happening 43 years late but it is still important that we do it.
"It is important for Kevin and for his family that they are given the chance to grieve publicly and acknowledge the awful tragedy his murder and secret burial was."
Funerals for both men - Mr Wright's will take place on Tuesday - were arranged after a summer-long wait for confirmation of DNA tests.
Their bodies were recovered from the same shallow grave on reclaimed bog land in Coghalstown, Co Meath, in June during a dig to find a third man killed and "Disappeared" by the IRA.
Mr McKee's disappearance took its toll on each family member, the priest said.
"We remind ourselves how this affected each of his family members, those living and those dead, especially his late mother Mary.
"We acknowledge 43 years of pain, of wondering, of uncertainty and not knowing what had happened.
"We acknowledge that at times there were very few to turn to and it was a lonely road for them to travel."
The hunt for the Disappeared has been overseen by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) - an independent body set up during the peace process to find 16 victims secretly buried by republicans.
The ICLVR was on site for several months this year searching for the remains of former Cistercian monk Joe Lynskey when the two other bodies were found.
It is also only a few miles from where the body of Brendan Megraw was discovered last year following searches at Oristown, Co Meath.
The searches for Mr Lynskey have to date been unsuccessful.
Fr Murtagh commended the process set up to locate the Disappeared.
He said: "It is part of our sometimes faltering peace process that is working."
Mr McKee will lie beside his mother at Blaris cemetery in Lisburn, Co Antrim.
**There are many who will find Cusack's story below entertaining. What I find equally amusing is Bobby Storey's urging of citizens to give any information concerning the 'criminal' killers of Davison and McGuigan to the PSNI although he himself intends to sue the PSNI for arresting HIM for questioning. (See this RTÉ story)
13 Sept 2015The Provisional IRA was about to appoint multiple murderer Gerard 'Jock' Davison as its so-called 'chief of staff' before he was shot dead in May, it has emerged.
Davison (48) is believed to have already held a place on the IRA's 'supreme' governing body, the 'Provisional Army Council' (PAC) and was the most senior figure in the Provos ever to have been shot dead.
Sources say he had been proposed as 'chief of staff' by a fellow Belfast member of the PAC and was awaiting elevation to the top spot when he was shot dead on May 5. No other 'Army Council' man had ever been killed before him.
Garda sources confirmed to the Sunday Independent that Jock Davison was 'there or thereabouts' at the top table of the Provisional IRA leadership when he was shot.
Ironically, it is also believed that Davison had been an agent for British security services who may also have been supporting his elevation to the top spot. This may have been part of a long-term plan to ensure that a figure like Davison would ensure the IRA kept to its ceasefire.Gerard 'Jock' Davison
In another twist, the PAC member who was said to have been promoting Davison as 'chief of staff' was also once suspected of being an agent working for British military intelligence. At one stage in the early 1990s, this man was being secretly filmed by an undercover RUC squad when he met his British Army handlers in a south Belfast park. During the meeting, the man was handed a briefcase stuffed with cash. A large IRA arms dump in west Belfast was seized shortly after.
Davison's role as a 'tout' was exposed in the immediate aftermath of the gruesome murder of innocent Belfast man Robert McCartney (33) in a Belfast city centre pub in January 2005. Davison ordered his men to butcher McCartney and his friend Brendan Devine following a drunken row, giving the order by running his forefinger across his throat and motioning towards the pair.
In the stabbing and beating frenzy outside the pub Davison slashed his own arm and went to the A&E at the Ulster Hospital in Dondald in east Belfast. There he was witnessed speaking to two men wearing suits and speaking in English accents.
Davison was never charged over the McCartney murder but continued his rise up the ranks of the Provisional IRA leadership. He was previously implicated in the murders of nine alleged Catholic drug dealers in Belfast but never played any significant role in fighting British forces in Northern Ireland.
Sources in Belfast say one of the reasons Kevin McGuigan decided, after years of simmering hatred, to murder Davison was because he had learned he was about to be elevated to the top job in the IRA. McGuigan had, it is said, referred openly to Davison as a 'tout'.
The Provisional Army Council, which officially doesn't exist any more, largely consists of Northern and specifically Belfast men. All are millionaires from 'dipping' into the organisation's massive criminal machine.
The Army Council members include:
The remaining chief of staff, a west Belfast man in his fifties who still occasionally lives in the back streets where he grew up but has several other houses and whose wife and children live openly ostentatious lifestyles.
An Armagh man once known as a dole cheat who is said to own a house on which up to €3m has been spent, paid for with money from diesel laundering, along with many other properties.
The Belfast man who was proposing Davison as 'chief of staff' and who still lives in a modest family home in west Belfast but is secretly wealthy.
Another Belfast man, a member of an IRA 'aristocracy' family, who once ran a multi-million euro illegal rubbish dumping business.
Two other Belfast men who were released from the Maze jail as part of the prisoner release deal after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
A prominent member of Sinn Fein from the Republic.
The claim that the former IRA gunman was shot by his ex-comrades has thrown Stormont into turmoil. But the manoeuvring is far from over
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
12 Sept 2015Bound, blindfolded and with a broken jaw, the terrified Territorial Army soldier must have thought he was about to die at the hands of the Provisional IRA in the republican north Belfast redoubt of Ardoyne.
It was 11 July 1986, the eve of “The Twelfth”, when Protestants celebrate King William’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne. But instead of ending up at one of the bonfires lit at midnight to mark loyalists’ and unionists’ most important day, the army reservist from the Protestant West Circular Road had strayed too close to Ardoyne and had been kidnapped by local republicans.
As the soldier awaited his fate in the early hours of the 12th, having sustained a savage beating at the hands of his two IRA captors, a pair of joggers approached the house, apparently on a morning run. Yet when the two men, dressed in tracksuits, stopped at a house in Holmdene Gardens, they turned to the door and kicked it in. Once inside, they drew their guns and went searching for the missing soldier. The reservist was about to be rescued by the SAS.
His two IRA guards bolted but were captured shortly afterwards in a joint army-police operation after hiding in the loft of a house in the street behind. The IRA men were veterans of the Provisionals: one was the late Martin Meehan, a street fighter famed for prison escapes and gun battles with the British army. The younger man, still in his 20s, was Kevin McGuigan, whose death in August this year has brought the power-sharing process in Northern Ireland to the brink of collapse.
It is this killing, which the police say was carried out with the involvement of the Provisional IRA, that has plunged the province into its worst crisis for a decade, raising the critical question: is the IRA still a functioning and deadly force?
For kidnapping the TA soldier, Meehan and McGuigan were sent to the Maze maximum security prison outside Belfast, where they joined their imprisoned IRA comrades in the H-Blocks. When both were eventually released in the early 1990s, Meehan moved into politics, eventually becoming a Sinn Féin councillor. The republican movement, however, had a different role for McGuigan to play: he would become one of their most feared and ruthless assassins.Martin Meehan in 1975
When the IRA declared its ceasefire on 31 August 1994, the organisation remained on a war footing. To keep its footsoldiers busy and the fighting machine oiled, the organisation spent most of the early part of 1995 gathering intelligence on a new generation of criminals who were amassing fortunes selling drugs in Catholic working-class areas of Northern Ireland.
Operating under a flag of convenience – a campaign group called Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD) – the IRA selected McGuigan for an assassination unit that would target alleged drug dealers in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland. Another even younger activist who was being groomed to become Belfast IRA commander – and ultimately, perhaps, the organisation’s overall chief of staff – was drafted in to run the DAAD murder campaign. His name was Gerard “Jock” Davison.
DAAD’s offensive began in April 2005 when they shot dead drug dealer Mickey Mooney in a downtown Belfast pub. Between 1995 and 2001 the group killed up to a dozen men. Security sources have told the Observer they are “absolutely certain” that McGuigan killed at least one of the victims of this vigilante campaign – Brendan “Speedy” Fegan in May 1999.
The death of Fegan, at a bar in Newry close to the border with the Irish Republic, demonstrated McGuigan’s prowess as a murderer. As he entered the Hermitage Bar in Newry city centre, McGuigan, wearing a wig and fake moustache, fired a number of shots into the roof of the pub, causing panic and chaos. McGuigan singled out the 24-year-old drug dealer, shooting Fegan about 16 times.Kevin McGuigan
The unit of McGuigan and Davison became an object of fear among the IRA’s many enemies, and its activities led to the latter’s promotion to head the Provisionals’ Belfast Brigade. Yet in a world of volatility, suspicion and daily violence, the fellow IRA killers would eventually fall out.
Both men had grown up in the Market area of central Belfast but spent a lot of their adult life just across the river in the Short Strand area – a Catholic district bordered on three sides by the mainly loyalist east of the city. Although a family man and a passionate follower of Gaelic sports, McGuigan’s volatile nature meant that even neighbourly disputes could end in violence. One such attack on a veteran republican family resulted in the IRA’s internal discipline unit being called in.
McGuigan was sentenced to a “six pack”, which, translated from Belfast street parlance, means gunshot wounds to the feet, knees, hands and elbows. McGuigan was bitter for years and believed one man was to blame for his punishment – Davison.
One former comrade from the time they were in the H-Blocks together was the IRA prisoner turned author and critic of Sinn Féin, Anthony McIntyre. McIntyre, who visited McGuigan in hospital after the six-pack shooting, recalled: “He was an ‘army man’ who believed strongly in the office of the leadership. I think his deep sense of loyalty to the army led him to resent Jock, who he felt hijacked the army and punished him for reasons that were unfair – the result of favouritism and personalities.”
For a decade, McGuigan nursed a dark grudge, which the IRA in Belfast now believe led him to kill Davison on a rainy Tuesday morning in May. The description of the gunman fitted McGuigan’s profile: diminutive, wiry, fit and professionally covered-up.
In the weeks and months following Davison’s murder, the 53-year-old father of nine issued statements through his solicitor denying any role in the killing. Over the summer McGuigan was warned three times by the Police Service of Northern Ireland that his life was danger, but he chose to remain in the Short Strand with his wife, Dolores.Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison
While the police appeared to be making no progress over the murder, Davison’s closest comrades were holding their own secret inquiry. They set up a unit that carried out interrogations and put a surveillance squad on McGuigan. Inside the Belfast IRA, meanwhile, debate raged over whether to strike back at whoever killed Davison, with some close to the Sinn Féin leadership fearing that bringing IRA footsoldiers back onto the streets would create a huge political crisis.
According to sources close to senior republicans, what swung that debate over to the side of those urging a brutal response was the surveillance team. They reported first to a one-time Belfast Brigade commander that they had seen McGuigan at Davison’s home. This IRA veteran, who once directed the Provisionals’ bombing campaign in Belfast and was close to Davison, then persuaded other senior republican figures to act – or they might be next.
Around 9pm on 12 August, as McGuigan was pulling up in his car with his wife at their home in Comber Court, two men clad in dark clothing ambushed him. They wounded him with a volley of shots and, as he tried to escape, killed him on the ground in front of his wife.
Ed Moloney, a veteran IRA-watcher and world authority on the Provisionals, is in no doubt that the leadership gave the go-ahead for the killing. “If this had been a genuinely freelance action, it would have been met with a ferocious response from the IRA against those responsible, and we haven’t seen that at all,” he said. “The unauthorised use of weapons, especially in a politically controversial killing, would merit a court-martial and a death sentence. In practice, nothing happens in the IRA without the approval and knowledge of the IRA’s military and political leadership.”
The Democratic Unionist party has threatened to pull down Northern Ireland’s coalition due to the alleged role of the IRA in McGuigan’s death. But Gary Donnelly, a former prisoner and Independent Republican councillor in Derry, said he didn’t believe unionists really cared about an ex-IRA gunman who, if ordered to do so during the Troubles, would have assassinated any unionist politician."I have no doubt Stormont will be back soon and will continue to yield a political dividend for the British government". --Gary Donnelly, republican councillor
“Bodies in the street and high-profile arrests are optics to deflect the electorate from substantive political issues. I have no doubt Stormont will be back soon and will continue to yield a political dividend for the British government,” Donnelly said.
Northern Ireland is unlikely to return to the sort of society it was back in 1986. The community from which McGuigan emerged doesn’t want to go back to war. While power sharing remains in peril, there will be no return to the 24/7 conflict of the Troubles past. Yet the murder of the former IRA gunman illustrates how that past continues to haunt the politics of the present.
Republican sceptics might be correct in suspecting unionists are using the killing to crash the current power sharing arrangement and, after elections later in the autumn, restore devolution on a basis that is more favourable to them. But past grudges, bad blood and one-sided folk memories of the Troubles still pollute the atmosphere in the region – not only at the parliament on the hill at Stormont but far beyond, in the old war zones where the conflict once raged.
Suzanne BreenBelfast Telegraph
3 Sept 2015An American gunrunner is set to be flown to Northern Ireland to give evidence in court against a senior Sinn Fein strategist, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
In what would be one of the most high-profile trials in years, Florida stockbroker turned gunrunner Mike Logan has agreed to testify against Sean "Spike" Murray, once a prominent IRA member, in Belfast Crown Court.
Logan claims he sent Murray hundreds of weapons during his five-year gunrunning career which began after the IRA ceasefire and continued following the Good Friday Agreement.
Murray is one of Sinn Fein's most senior officials in Belfast. Less that a fortnight ago, he was a member of the party delegation which met the Chief Constable at PSNI headquarters to deny IRA involvement in the murder of Kevin McGuigan and to insist the IRA no longer existed.Mike Logan will give evidence against a one-time prominent IRA member in court
The deadly cache of weapons that Logan sent the Provos included around 200 handguns which were used in several murders including the killing of two police officers in Lurgan in 1997.
Spike Murray has continually denied any involvement in the gun-smuggling plot, describing the allegations as "without foundation".
But Logan (56) claims he worked for the IRA, reporting directly to Murray, who has served seven years in the H-Blocks for explosive offences and is a regular visitor to Sinn Fein offices in Stormont.
The Belfast Telegraph can exclusively reveal that a high-powered PSNI delegation travelled to the US last month to ask Logan to give evidence against Murray. They included Det Chief Supt Tim Hanley, Head of Serious Crime Branch.
The detectives held a three-hour meeting with Logan in a Florida Hotel. His lawyer spoke to them on the phone in advance to ensure he had immunity from prosecution.
Logan initially refused to co-operate with the PSNI. However, they remained in regular contact with him. Logan changed his mind a fortnight ago and told the police he was willing to help the investigation and to give evidence against Murray.
Three detectives and a PSNI camera operator are due to meet Logan in Florida in early October to formally interview him and record his evidence on video.
Sources say that if a prosecution case is successfully constructed, detectives have told Logan he will be flown to Belfast for the trial and housed in secure accommodation. He has been promised "total protection" in court and when travelling to and from court.Sean 'Spike' Murray
When asked about the dramatic new developments in the case, a PSNI spokesman would only say: "Inquiries are continuing. This remains a live investigation and as such we can't comment."
Apart from sending the weapons used to murder Constables John Graham and David Johnston in Lurgan in 1997, another gun Logan sent the IRA was used to kill Real IRA Belfast commander Joe O'Connor three years later.
Logan believes a third was used in the IRA's attempted murder in England of former Special Branch agent Martin McGartland in 1999.
McGartland was shot six times outside his home in Whitley Bay. His life was saved by neighbours using cling film to stop the blood flow from his wound.
Two months later, the Czech-made Luger pistol used in the attack was found in undergrowth along the River Tyne. McGartland claims there has been "a massive cover-up" about the gun's origins as the authorities want to avoid blaming the IRA for the attack.
Logan was first interviewed in April last year in a BBC Spotlight programme which suggested that the British authorities, at the highest level, knew the full details of Spike Murray's involvement in the arms' importation but turned a blind eye in order to protect the peace process.
The day after the programme, the DUP met the PSNI to raise concerns and, hours later, it was announced police were investigating the Florida gunrunning operation.
Until our revelations today, details of that investigation had remained secret.
Logan was given immunity from prosecution by the US authorities in 2002 in return for giving them information about the weapons he had bought for the IRA.