You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2013.
By Catherine McCartney
“The last posting of 2013 on thebrokenelbow.com is given over to Catherine McCartney, whose brother Robert was brutally murdered by the IRA in January 2005 and who gives her own assessment of the Redemptorist priest, Fr Alec Reid who died last November.”
**Please read on >>THE BROKEN ELBOW – ED MOLONEY
21 Dec 2013
An former IRA man convicted of killing the last British soldier to die before the Good Friday peace agreement has been found dead in Monaghan.
Bernard McGinn (56) received jailed terms totalling 490 years for IRA offences in Ireland and England but was released after months under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
A Garda spokesman said: “A man in his 50s was found dead in his house in Monaghan Town at 2pm this afternoon.”
A post-mortem examination is expected to take place.
It appears however at this stage that he died of natural causes.
Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was murdered in South Armagh in February 1997.
McGinn was given three life sentences in 1999 for murdering the soldier, shot in the back with a powerful weapon at an army checkpoint in Bessbrook while talking to a member of the public.
McGinn was also sentenced to a total of 490 years for a catalogue of terrorist offences including making the bombs destined for Canary Wharf, the Baltic Exchange and Hammersmith Bridge in London.
As Lance Bombardier Restorick was speaking to a local woman Lorraine McElroy who was passing the checkpoint, he was hit by a bullet fired from a Barrett Light 50 rifle – a high-powered US weapon used to kill nine soldiers and police officers in Northern Ireland.
McGinn told detectives he travelled in the car used in the attack but that another man fired the fatal shot.
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, he was released months after his conviction – laughing at his sentences as he was led to the cells following the guilty verdict.
McGinn was also found guilty of murdering two other British soldiers: Lance Bombardier Paul Garrett in South Armagh in 1993 and former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier Thomas Johnston in 1978.
He told police that he made explosives north and south of the border on an almost daily basis: “like a day’s work”.
McGinn and three other men were also found guilty of conspiring to murder a person or persons unknown in April 1997.
Gardaí believe he had become linked to dissident republicans in recent times.
17 December 2013
The last man to be sentenced in connection with the sectarian murder of Catholic schoolboy Michael McIlveen will serve a minimum of eight years of his life sentence for the “secondary” role he played in the fatal attack.
Michael McIlveen, 15, who was murdered in Ballymena seven years ago.
Michael ‘Mickey Bo’ McIlveen died in hospital after he was chased and attacked by a group of drunk Protestant youths in Ballymena on May 6, 2006.
Jeff Colin Lewis from Rossdale in Ballymena – who was part of the group of attackers – was handed a minimum eight-year tariff sentence on Tuesday.
Belfast Crown Court heard the 15-year old victim was chased down an alleyway where he became embroiled in a fight with Lewis, who is now 24 but who was 17 at the time of the murder.
The court heard Michael McIlveen “was bettering” Lewis, when he was approached by other members of the Protestant gang, one of whom hit him on the head with a baseball bat that had been picked up from a nearby home.
The blow felled Michael and while he was on the ground, he was attacked and kicked by a number of people, including Lewis.
The head injuries sustained from being struck with the baseball bat proved fatal.
During the tariff hearing, Crown prosecutor Liam McCollum QC said the events which led to Michael’s death began at the Seven Tower Leisure Centre.
Michael and his friends fled from the drunken group but were pursued to the alleyway at Granville Drive.
Mr McCollum said it was accepted that Lewis played a “secondary role in the murder of Michael McIlveen.”
Defence barrister Richard Weir QC told the court that while there was a sectarian element to the attack, it also involved “immature drunken youths behaving badly.”
Saying his client “played a peculiar but particular part in this murder”, Mr Weir said Lewis was not aware of the presence of a baseball bat until Michael was attacked with it, and instead of removing himself from the scene, Lewis made the “dire error” of kicking the teenager as he lay on the ground.
Mr Weir also revealed his client had expressed genuine remorse for this role in Michael’s death, and had suffered a “complete mental breakdown” whilst in prison.
Branding the incident as “tragic”, Mr Justice Weatherup said Michael McIlveen died as the result of a sectarian attack.
He told Lewis that as Michael lay prone on the ground after being struck by the baseball bat, the injured teenager was “kicked by other members of the group who were present and you were a member of that group”.
Lewis is the fourth man to be sentenced for the murder of Michael McIlveen.
Mervyn Wilson Moon, 25, from Douglas Terrace in Ballymena, is currently serving a minimum ten-year tariff after he pleaded guilty to his role.
It was Moon who administered the fatal blow to the victim after striking him with the baseball bat.
Christopher Francis Kerr, 26, from Carnduff Drive in the Co Antrim town – who lifted the baseball bat from a house close to where Michael was attacked – was given a minimum nine-year tariff, while Aaron Cavana Wallace, 25, from Moat Road in Ballymena, is serving a minimum eight-year tariff.
17 Dec 2013
Prominent republican Colin Duffy has been charged with conspiring to murder members of the security forces in Northern Ireland.
Two other men were separately accused of trying to murder police travelling to the scene of a loyalist protest in Belfast earlier this month. Shots were fired at the officers’ vehicles.
The trio appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court surrounded by prison officers and armed riot police but did not speak during the brief hearing.
They waved to a crowd in the gallery who noisily indicated support as they were led away to prison to await their trial.
Duffy, 47, was also accused of membership of the IRA and conspiring with the other defendants, Alex McCrory and Henry Fitzsimmons, to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life or cause serious damage to property since the start of this year.
There were no legal submissions. A detective connected them to the charges.
A convoy of PSNI vehicles pulling digital signs was fired upon from republican Ardoyne as it travelled up the Crumlin Road on December 5 to the scene of an Orange Order protest linked to a July 12 parade.
Duffy, from Forest Glade in Lurgan, faces four charges including conspiring to possess explosives and firearms and belonging to a proscribed organisation, the IRA, between January 1 and December 16 this year, a Courts Service statement said.
Only the membership of the IRA charge was read out in open court.
A Court Service statement said Duffy was charged: “On dates unknown between the 1st day of January 2013 and the 16th day of December 2013, in the County Division of Belfast or elsewhere within the jurisdiction of the Crown Court, conspired with Alexander McCrory and Henry Fitzsimmons and with persons unknown to murder members of the security forces.”
McCrory, 52, from Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast, was accused of conspiring to murder members of the security forces, conspiracy to possess explosives and firearms and belonging to the IRA.
He was also charged with attempting to murder the officers in their vehicles on the Crumlin Road and possessing firearms with intent to endanger life.
Fitzsimmons, 46, of no fixed address, was charged with possession of firearms with intent, attempting to murder the officers on the Crumlin Road, belonging to the IRA and conspiracy with the other two accused to possess firearms and explosives.
Only the possession of firearms charges were read out in court.
A large crowd filled the body of the courtroom as police officers stood near the doorway. Duffy was wearing a grey open-necked top and had a beard. Five prison officers stood in the dock.
A shortened version of the charge sheet was read out and then solicitors for the accused told magistrate Fiona Bagnall they had no submissions to make.
The accused were remanded in custody to Maghaberry high-security prison to reappear before the court via video-link on January 14.
Two people were arrested after supporters clashed with police outside the courthouse.
Photo: The four Provisional IRA terrorists known as the Balcombe Street Terror Gang, from left: Hugh Doherty, Martin O’Connel, Edward Butler and Harry Duggan, in a line up in London.
ON May 10 1998, four men made a dramatic appearance on the platform at a special Sinn Fein conference in Dublin. There was ‘stamping of feet, wild applause and triumphant cheering’ during a 10 minute ovation while the men known as the Balcombe Street gang stood grinning with clenched fists in the air. At the same conference, and to great applause, Gerry Adams described the four men as ‘our Nelson Mandelas!’
Ed Moloney has written a very moving piece on the death of Patrick Joe Crawford. Included in this post on his site at ‘The Broken Elbow’ is also a beautiful song written and sung by Belfast artist Dave Thompson. I hope you will take some time to go read and listen and think about this.
“Accused of informing but denied the opportunity to defend himself, Paddy Joe Crawford was taken by IRA comrades in the internee huts at Long Kesh in June 1973 and hanged – lynched might be a more fitting word – with all the macabre and grisly ceremonial that accompanies such executions…”
5 Dec 2013
Northern Ireland police are investigating claims soldiers attached to an undercover unit in Belfast in the 1970s killed unarmed civilians.
Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris revealed the news to the Policing Board.
He said a previous investigation into the Military Reaction Force (MRF) had spoken to 350 witnesses and saw several soldiers questioned under caution.
Files had been sent to the then Director of Public Prosecutions.
He said following a Panorama programme last month, detectives were looking at the broadcast and reviewing the “very extensive” case papers.
The outcome would then be sent to the Public Prosecution Service for advice on any further steps.
“This is the start of the reinvestigation of this case,” Mr Harris said.
Panorama was told the MRF was tasked with “hunting down” IRA members in Belfast.
Three former MRF soldiers, who were speaking publicly for the first time, said that on some occasions they opened fire on targets in the streets of Belfast without actually seeing the person they shot holding a weapon.
Meanwhile, Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr told the Policing Board the unnamed organiser of last Saturday’s flags parade in Belfast city centre has been spoken to by police and will be prosecuted for breaches of the parades commission determination
Policeman appeared on TV displaying captured IRA weapons after SAS operation
4 Dec 2013
Judge Peter Smithwick said: “Either the IRA did have an extraordinary piece of good fortune, or Harry Breen [above] was the target of this operation. I believe that the evidence points to the latter conclusion.”
The fate of Chief Supt Harry Breen, the most senior RUC officer to be killed in the Troubles, was sealed the day he appeared on television displaying the IRA weapons recovered after the SAS ambush at Loughgall that killed eight IRA members and an innocent civilian.
That was the implicit finding of Judge Peter Smithwick in his monumental 1,652-page report into the murders of Chief Supt Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in an ambush just north of the Border near Jonesborough in south Armagh on the afternoon of March 20th, 1989.
‘Classic IRA operation’
Three IRA members previously and privately in a statement and without the benefit of cross-examination informed Judge Smithwick’s tribunal that the killings were a “classic IRA operation” that involved “no help from anyone at all”.
Judge Smithwick made clear yesterday he did not believe them. His inquiry did not uncover “direct evidence of collusion” but found that one or more unidentified members of the gardaí operating in Dundalk did collude with the IRA, providing information that helped lead to the deaths of the two policemen.
But Chief Supt Breen was the chief target, Judge Smithwick appeared certain. Between August 1988 and the time of the ambush in March the following year Supt Buchanan had travelled on business to Dundalk station 20 or 21 times and was not targeted by the IRA. The judge could only identify one of those occasions – in February 1989 – in which Chief Supt Breen was with him.
Based on his “pattern of travel” IRA members could have tried to kill Supt Buchanan several times but it was Chief Supt Breen they wanted.
‘Target of this operation’
Referring to March 20th, Judge Smithwick reported: “Either the IRA did have an extraordinary piece of good fortune, or Harry Breen was the target of this operation. I believe that the evidence points to the latter conclusion.”
His central findings kept coming back to Loughgall. He believed “that the vast majority of the evidence suggests that the intention was to abduct and interrogate these officers”.
“In the latter respect, the evidence keeps pointing back to the desire of the IRA to acquire information as to how the British security services had gotten advance warning of the IRA ambush on Loughgall police station in May 1987,” he reported.
An IRA informant is almost certain to have tipped off the RUC or MI5 or British army intelligence about the planned Loughgall attack. That led to the IRA’s single worst loss of life when eight men were killed by the waiting SAS, with an innocent man also killed in the relentless gunfire. Judge Smithwick was of the view that the IRA wanted to interrogate Chief Supt Breen to establish the identity of that informant or possibly informants.
The evidence to the tribunal indicates that the IRA may also have had revenge on its mind. In a written statement to the tribunal in February three anonymous IRA members said the “instructions to the ASU [active service unit] were to intercept the car and arrest the occupants, but if that was not possible then they were to ensure that neither occupant escaped”.
The IRA said the two unarmed officers “died instantly in gunfire”. That account did not quite tally with eyewitness evidence given to the tribunal last year. A scrapyard worker who saw the incident described the gunmen letting out “a big roar like a hurrah” as they left the scene, while a schoolteacher said Chief Supt Breen tried to surrender but he was gunned down. She said he “put his hands up and they shot him”.
Chief Supt Breen went on television after Loughgall displaying the IRA weapons recovered from the scene. The IRA said he was so “very well known that this image was etched on every republican’s mind”. June Breen, the officer’s widow, in a statement told the tribunal she felt it was wrong that he had been asked by his superiors to display the weapons as it exposed him to additional danger.
She recalled how on the morning of his death she was ill in bed and that her husband told her were it not for the fact his deputy was off he would stay at home to mind her.
Two officers came to her door
That evening she remembered preparing chops for their dinner and later how two officers came to her door to say he was dead.
“It was very hard to take at the time and sometimes remains so,” she said. Ms Breen also told how her husband had instructed that were he to be killed, the then RUC chief superintendent Sir John Hermon should not attend his funeral. She did not say why. That was the sad human dimension to the killings.
In terms of fallout it seems unlikely that there will be a major negative political dimension to the Smithwick report.
The judge found there was Garda collusion but that it was localised and, it seems, at a low-ranking level. Such corruption is hard to come to terms with, but will hardly damage British-Irish or North-South relations.
3 Dec 2013
Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were murdered in 1989
The IRA were tipped off by gardaí with information which proved vital in the plot to murder the two most senior policemen to die during the Troubles, the Smithwick tribunal into allegations of collusion has found.
RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were gunned down on their way home from a high-level meeting at Dundalk Garda Station in 1989.
Questions have long been posed over how the IRA knew enough about their movements to carry out such a detailed plan with deadly accuracy.
Decades later, and after an intensive eight-year investigation led by Judge Peter Smithwick, a damning conclusion has been reached – that there was collusion in the case.
Robert Buchanan’s son William expressed appreciation on behalf of his family for the “diligence and integrity” of the investigation.
“The findings are both incredible and shocking and confirm the existence of a mole in Dundalk station. This led to my father’s death,” he said.
Judge Smithwick was tasked with finding answers, however unpalatable, and was scathing of the state for what he feels was putting itself and political expediency over the pursuit of the truth.
“This tribunal has sought to establish the truth and, in so doing, I hope that it has contributed one small part in changing the culture.”
–Judge Peter Smithwick
Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan were ambushed by IRA men posing as an Army patrol on the Edenappa Road, in what was known as the ‘bandit country’ of south Armagh, on 20 March 1989.
Having travelled to meet with gardaí in Dundalk, they were unarmed as they were not allowed to carry their weapons over the Irish border.
The attack on the two men was planned to such a degree that their vehicle was directed to a specific spot, out of sight of a watchtower, before they were gunned down.
Robert Buchanan, a father of two, was already dead when he was shot again in the head.
Harry Breen, also a father of two, was badly wounded and waved a white hankie as he pleaded for mercy from the gunmen. None was shown.
They shot him dead at close range.
The two officers would have been targets for the IRA, as they had been assigned to a joint RUC and An Garda effort to cut off their funding by smashing the huge smuggling operation in south Armagh.
An Garda Siochána had refuted allegations that there was a mole within the force, while the IRA denied having been privy to insider information.
The intelligence picture seemed to tell a different story though, with conversations recorded by the PSNI during an investigation into dissident republican activity containing claims by former IRA members that gardaí had passed information to the Provisionals.
“On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I apologise without reservation to the Breen and Buchanan families for any failings identified in the report on the part of the State or any of its agencies.”
–Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore
The Smithwick report was handed to the clerk of the Dáil last Friday and then copies were given to the victims’ families on Monday night, with the findings finally made public on Tuesday evening.
Irish Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was “appalled and saddened” by the findings and apologised without reservation to the Breen and Buchanan families.
“Their murder deprived June Breen and Catherine Buchanan of their husbands, and Gillian and George Breen and Heather and William Buchanan of devoted fathers,” he said.
I know that members of An Garda Síochána will be shocked by these findings today.
“The actions documented in this report are a betrayal of the values and the very ethos of an Garda Síochána, as the guardians of peace.”
Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter also apologised.
“Even with the passage of 24 years and the positive developments which have taken place on the island since, our condemnation of their murder should be as strong today as it was then,” he said.
His counterpart in Northern Ireland, David Ford, told UTV: “I don’t think you can say because of the possibility that one or two officers sometime in the past were corrupt, that it’s a tarnished force.
“I think what we can say is that it contains human beings, and things sometimes go wrong with individuals.
“But with what I see when I meet members of the gardai, I believe that they are providing a good service for the people of the Republic of Ireland – and also across the border, in terms of cooperation with the PSNI.”
A statement from the Garda Commissioner welcomed the Smithwick report.
It said: “Given the serious matters under examination by the Tribunal, the report, conclusions and recommendations will now need to be carefully examined by the Garda Commissioner and his senior officers and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
Meanwhile the PSNI said it will “take time to study the content of the report in detail”.
A spokesman continued: “The murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan are still open.
“PSNI has fully engaged with and supported the Smithwick Tribunal and any new evidence that comes to light as a result will be fully considered and assessed.”
“We would once again express our sympathy to the families of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan and appeal to anyone with information to contact police.”
The Superintendents’ Association of Northern Ireland added: “Without doubt, the conclusions of this report will make stark and challenging reading for many people and whilst we recognise this step towards bringing out the truth in relation to these tragic and horrendous murders, what is now important for us is to see how these findings are acted upon.”
Politicians have also given their reactions to the findings.
Speaking to UTV, Gregory Campbell of the DUP said: “The initial reading of this report does appear to be explosive. But many people will say this only confirms what many of us knew.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: “People will make up their own minds on this when they read the report. Sinn Féin supported these inquires on the basis that families had the right to full disclosure of all relevant information.
“What Justice Smithwick describes as collusion is very different in form and scale from the collusion that occurred in the north. Sinn Féin believes that there needs to be an effective truth process for dealing with all legacy issues.”
Dolores Kelly of the SDLP said: “The Smithwick Tribunal took an independent and fearless approach and this should be a measure of how to deal with the past. Judge Smithwick, through a trying process and painstaking work has gotten to the bottom of this tragedy.”
Tom Elliott of the UUP said: “The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs said in a recent speech in Cambridge that the Irish Government had to address the perception among unionists that successive Irish governments did not do enough to stop the IRA.
“Judge Smithwick’s confirmation that it is more than a perception will require the Taoiseach to take the next step to address unionist concerns.”
Naomi Long of Alliance said: “I welcome the unequivocal apology from Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, as an important step in acknowledging the Irish State’s role in these events. Clearly, all concerned will need to take time to reflect on the full findings of the report.”
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said: “The report raises some serious concerns which I will need to consider in detail and discuss with the Irish Government.
“An important point to remember is that levels of cooperation between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI are now at unprecedented levels and are playing a crucial part in combating terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland.