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30 April 2014
1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing in London
On the Run letters could be withdrawn if it is found they were sent in error, according to a key advisor to the attorney general.
Kevin McGinty was giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee about letters issued to republican paramilitary suspects.
Mr McGinty also said the On The Runs scheme was “not corrupt”.
However, he said it was “damaging to the criminal justice system”.
On The Runs is the term used to refer to people who are suspected of, but who have not been charged or convicted of paramilitary offences during the Troubles.
Controversy over the scheme emerged in February, when the trial of John Downey, the man charged with carrying out the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing in London, was halted.
The trial judge said the case could not continue because Mr Downey had received a government letter, mistakenly saying he was not wanted for questioning by police.
It later emerged that about 200 letters had been sent to republican paramilitary suspects.
On Wednesday, Mr McGinty, who was involved with the scheme, told the committee he believed letters that were mistakenly issued telling republicans they were not wanted by the police for questioning or arrest could be withdrawn.
Mr McGinty said other letters would not necessarily preclude recipients from prosecution.
The collapse of John Downey’s trial last month sparked the On the Runs crisis
He also told the committee the Northern Ireland Office had amended the letter sent to Mr Downey to suggest that he was not wanted in the UK.
He said this had been done on advice that the appropriate checks had been made by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) but accepted that the PSNI was not informed that the wording was changed by the Northern Ireland Office.
Mr McGinty insisted that the On the Runs scheme was lawful, but said it was accepted at the time that it would “damage the criminal justice system”.
“I am not going to describe it as corrupt”, Mr McGinty said.
The scheme, according to Mr McGinty, began at a time in the peace negotiations when Sinn Féin was being “particularly difficult”.
Earlier, former chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan told the committee that he was aware of letters being considered but not aware of them “actually going out”.
Asked whether people in other circumstances could ring up the police and ask if they were wanted, Sir Ronnie claimed the political context at the time, which had also seen the early release of paramilitary prisoners, meant that a “completely normal situation” did not apply.
But he added: “I certainly would never have been engaged in a process that would have allowed anyone to escape justice or evade justice.”
Sir Ronnie was also adamant no political pressure was exerted on him to ensure certain individuals were not pursued.
‘I am no longer afraid’ says Helen McKendry, as Northern Ireland secretary warns of tense moment in peace process
Henry McDonald and Nicholas Watt
Thursday 1 May 2014
Helen McKendry, Jean McConville’s daughter, holding a family portrait. Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP
The eldest daughter of IRA murder victim Jean McConville vowed to “name names” to police, as officers continue to hold Gerry Adams for questioning in connection with her kidnapping into a second day.
Helen McKendry’s outspoken intervention came as the former Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward warned that the arrest of Adams marks one of the most “tense and potentially quite dangerous” moments in the peace process.
Speaking to the Guardian McKendry, who has spent 20 years campaigning to bring her mother’s killers to justice, said: “I spent the first 20 years of my life being afraid of these people, of fearing to speak out, but now I am no longer afraid.”
McKendry, who witnessed her mother being dragged away by the IRA in 1972, said she was prepared to identify the abductors despite a fear or reprisals – in contrast with her brother Michael, who earlier in the day told the BBC he was not prepared to say who was involved.
She said: “If full cooperation into the murder of my mother includes naming those who I saw bursting into our flat, who dragged my mother away from us at gunpoint, and who were directly involved in her disappearance and murder, then yes – I would be prepared to name names. To me that is not informing but doing my duty to my mother.”
McKendry said detectives had told the family that the Police Service of Northern Ireland has obtained as many as 11 tapes – testimonies from former IRA members – from a US academic archive relating to the McConville killing.
The continued detention of the Sinn Féin leader over the kidnapping, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville, a mother of 10, has thrown the delicate political settlement in the province back into crisis.
Woodward became the first senior political figure in London to raise concerns about the impact of the arrest. Labour’s last Northern Ireland secretary told the Guardian: “This is a very serious and tense moment in the history of the peace process and the political process. So long as Northern Ireland continues to avoid having a mechanism to deal fairly with the legacy issues of the pre-1998 Good Friday agreement there will inevitably be these tense and potentially quite dangerous and threatening moments in the peace process and the political process.”
His remarks came after Martin McGuinness said there were elements in the police force – which he and Adams once urged republicans to back – who were determined to hinder Sinn Fein’s advance across the island of Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister said his party had been told by “senior” and “reforming” elements within the PSNI that “there was still a dark side within policing here in the north of Ireland”. He said: “I think we have seen that dark side flex its muscles in the course of the last couple of days.”
Sinn Féin had earlier said that the arrest, weeks before the European parliamentary elections, was politically motivated – a suggestion David Cameron rejected. The prime minister said: “There has been absolutely no political interference in this issue. We have an independent judicial system, both here in England and in Northern Ireland. We have independent policing authorities, independent prosecuting authorities. Those are vital parts of the free country and the free society we enjoy today.”
Matt Baggott, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said the investigation would be “effective, objective and methodical”.
Asked about the investigation, Baggott said: “Effective investigation applies to any unsolved matter and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any individual investigation other than to say they will be objective and methodical.”
Labour figures associated with the peace process made no criticism of the police who had, they said, followed the law. But Peter Hain, Tony Blair’s last Northern Ireland secretary, said Adams had told him with great passion that he was not responsible for McConville’s death.
Hain said: “Obviously the judicial process has to take its course. Gerry Adams has strongly asserted – as he always did to me when I was secretary of state and he was actually helping track the ‘disappeared’ – that he had nothing to do with this. In fact we actually discussed the Jean McConville atrocity because that is what it was – a terrible crime. He was passionate about it being wrong and he wanted to find out who was responsible – at least that it is what he told me and those of us seeking to address the ‘disappeared’ on behalf of the victims because there are many of them.”
But Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland’s first minister and key partner with McGuinness in the power-sharing executive, said the arrest strengthened Northern Ireland’s political process. “I cannot say whether Mr Adams will be charged or released, whether he will be held for a further period, whether even if charged he might be convicted,” he said. “But what I can say is that it strengthens our political process in Northern Ireland for people to know that no one is above the law – everyone is equal under the law and everyone is equally subject to the law.”
The abduction, fatal shooting and covert burial of McConville, a 37-year-old Protestant who became a Catholic convert, continues to haunt both Adams and the peace process.
In front of her children at their home in the Divis flats complex, the West Belfast woman was dragged away by an IRA gang, driven across the border to the Republic, shot in the head at a remote coastal spot in County Louth, and then buried in secret.
She became the most famous of the “disappeared” – 16 IRA victims shot and buried at secret locations across Ireland during the Troubles.
Former IRA members including Adams’s former friend, the hunger striker Brendan Hughes, have alleged that the future Sinn Féin president gave the order for McConville to be “disappeared” after she was shot as an informer. Her family have always rejected any suggestion that she was a British army agent pointing to Northern Ireland’s former police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s investigation,which found no evidence of their mother working as an informer.
Adams has consistently denied claims of involvement in the McConville murder or of being in the IRA. He was arrested on Wednesday evening after handing himself into the PSNI’s serious crimes suite at Antrim Town. Before entering the police station, he repeated that he was “innocent of any part” in the murder.
The Sinn Féin leader spent Wednesday night in custody and could in theory be held until late on Friday under anti-terrorist legislation.
The allegations of a supposed police conspiracy against Sinn Féin and its party leader by McGuinness drew an angry response from the McConville family. The murdered woman’s son-in-law, Seamus McKendry, who co-founded the campaign for the disappeared, described McGuinness’s claims as “totally absurd and a deep insult to the family and the wider community’s intelligence”.
McKendry said: “This is the same PSNI which Martin McGuinness asked everyone including his own supporters to endorse when devolution was restored. He can’t have it both ways. This is just typical spin to deflect from the real story behind all of this, to deflect from the terrible crime inflicted on Jean.”
Ireland’s prime minister, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, dismissed any notion that the arrest was politically motivated.
“I hope the president of Sinn Féin, Deputy Adams, answers in the best way that he can, the fullest extent that he can, the questions being asked about a live murder investigation by the PSNI,” Kenny said.His ministerial colleague Ruairí Quinn said any suggestion Adams was detained in order to interfere with politics south of the border was “ludicrous”.
The arrest also refocuses attention on Sinn Féin’s past connection to the IRA at a time when the party has been riding high in the opinion polls and seeking to make major gains in the Irish Republic’s European and local government elections. Deputy party leader Mary Lou McDonald insisted that there was a political motive behind the arrest given that the country was only two weeks away from going to the polls.
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK
30 April 2014
DUBLIN — Police in Northern Ireland arrested Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams on Wednesday over his alleged involvement in the Irish Republican Army’s 1972 abduction, killing and secret burial of a Belfast widow.
Adams, 65, confirmed his own arrest in a prepared statement and described it as a voluntary, prearranged interview.
Police long had been expected to question Adams about the killing of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of 10 whom the IRA killed with a single gunshot to the head as an alleged spy.
According to all authoritative histories of the Sinn Fein-IRA movement, Adams served as an IRA commander for decades, but he has always denied holding any position in the outlawed group.
“I believe that the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice to her and her family,” Adams said. “Well publicized, malicious allegations have been made against me. I reject these. While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs. McConville.”
Reflecting the embarrassment associated with killing a widowed mother, the IRA did not admit the killing until 1999, when it claimed responsibility for nearly a dozen slayings of long-vanished civilians and offered to try to pinpoint their unmarked graves. McConville’s children had been told she abandoned them, and they were divided into different foster homes.
Her remains were discovered only by accident near a Republic of Ireland beach in 2003. The woman’s skull bore a single bullet mark through the back of the skull, and forensics officer determined she’d been shot once through back of the head with a rifle.
Jean McConville and children
Adams was implicated in the killing by two IRA veterans, who gave taped interviews to researchers for a Boston College history archive on the four-decade Northern Ireland conflict. Belfast police waged a two-year legal fight in the United States to acquire the interviews, parts of which already were published after the 2008 death of one IRA interviewee, Brendan Hughes.
Boston College immediately handed over the Hughes tapes. The college and researchers fought unsuccessfully to avoid handover tapes of the second IRA interviewee, Dolours Price, who died last year.
Both Hughes and Price agreed to be interviewed on condition that their contents were kept confidential until their deaths.
In his interviews Hughes, a reputed 1970s deputy to Adams within the Belfast IRA, said McConville was killed on Adams’ orders. Hughes said Adams oversaw a special IRA unit called “The Unknowns” that was committed to identifying, killing and secretly burying Belfast Catholic civilians suspected of spying on behalf of the police or British Army. An independent investigation by Northern Ireland’s police complaints watchdog in 2006 found no evidence that McConville had been a spy.
Hughes told the researchers he led the IRA team that “arrested” McConville, but her fate was sealed following a policy argument between Adams and the man he succeeded as Belfast commander, Ivor Bell.
He said Bell wanted McConville’s body to be put on public display to intimidate other people from helping the British, but Adams wanted her killing kept mysterious.
“There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed,” Hughes said in the audio recording, which was broadcast on British and Irish television in 2010. “That man is now the head of Sinn Fein. I did not give the order to execute that woman. He did.”
A 2010 book written by the lead researcher, journalist Ed Moloney, “Voices From the Grave,” also quoted Hughes as describing Adams as the IRA’s “Belfast Brigade” commander who oversaw planning of the first car-bomb attacks in London in March 1973.
Adams and Hughes were arrested together in July 1973, when the British Army pounced on an IRA commanders’ meeting in West Belfast. Both were interned without trial. Adams was repeatedly interrogated for suspected involvement in IRA bombings and shootings, but was never convicted of any IRA offense besides a failed prison escape during his mid-1970s internment.
Last month Belfast detectives investigating the McConville killing arrested and charged Bell, now 77, with IRA membership and aiding McConville’s murder.
Price, who was a member of the IRA’s 1973 London car-bombing unit, died last year of a suspected drug overdose. She gave interviews to journalists admitting she had driven McConville across the Irish border, where another IRA member shot McConville once through the back of the head. It remains unclear what precisely she told the Boston College project.
Adams was the longtime British Parliament member for West Belfast, although like all Sinn Fein politicians he refused to take his seat in London, citing the required oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.
He never held a post in Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government, the central peacemaking institution established in the wake of the Good Friday accord of 1998. He stepped down as West Belfast’s MP in 2011 and won election to the Republic of Ireland parliament, where he represents the same border area, County Louth, where McConville’s body was found.
Ivor Bell (77) refused bail on charges relating to 1972 murder of Jean McConville
22 March 2014
The police case against a veteran republican charged in connection with the notorious IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at a US college, a court has heard.
The claim was made as Ivor Bell (77) was refused bail and remanded in custody by a district judge in Belfast accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.
Boston College interviewed a number of former paramilitaries about the Troubles on the understanding transcripts would not be published until after their deaths.
But that undertaking was rendered ineffective when a US court last year ordered that the tapes be handed over to PSNI detectives.
The interviews included claims about the murder of Mrs McConville, who was abducted by the IRA at her home at Divis Flats, Belfast in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan, representing Bell, told district judge Amanda Henderson that the prosecution case was that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as ‘Z ’, was his client.
But the solicitor insisted the person interviewed on the tape had denied any involvement in the murder.
“During those interviews Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Mr Corrigan also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.
“The defence submits that the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Grey-haired moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, sat impassively in the dock wearing a grey jumper as his lawyer made the claims.
Some of Mrs McConville’s children watched on from the public gallery.
A PSNI detective inspector, who earlier told the judge he could connect the accused with the charges, rejected Mr Corrigan’s interpretation of the Boston College interview.
He claimed the transcript actually indicated Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville”.
The officer said he opposed bail on the grounds that the defendant would likely flee the jurisdiction. He revealed that he had previously used an alias to travel to Spain and predicted he could use contacts within the IRA to travel beyond Northern Ireland.
But Mr Corrigan said that was out of the question, noting that his client suffered from a range of serious medical conditions, that his family was based in Belfast and that he had “every incentive” to stay in Northern Ireland to prove his innocence.
“Are the prosecution seriously suggesting that a man in this serious ill health, who can’t walk up steps, is going to abscond for an offence where he has every incentive to attend court?” he said.
Judge Henderson said the case was a very “significant and sensitive” one and praised those in court for acting with dignity through the hearing.
She said she was more convinced with the argument the prosecution had made.
“I am persuaded by the prosecution in this case and on that basis I am refusing bail,” she said.
Bell was remanded in custody to appear before court again next month.
He waved to supporters in the public gallery as he was led out of the dock.
Mrs McConville was dragged away from her children by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast.
An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the allegations.
She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home.
The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to gardaí.
She became one of the so-called Disappeared, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.
Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.
After the hearing Mrs McConville’s son Michael said the family’s thoughts were with their mother.
“The pain of losing her has not diminished over the decades since she was taken from us murdered and secretly buried,” he said.
“She is in our hearts and our thoughts always. Whatever the future holds nothing will ever change that”.
17 Feb 2014
Alan Black, pictured at today’s hearing, was shot 18 times
A man who survived an IRA massacre of ten Protestant workmen believes state agents may have been involved in the attack, a coroner’s court has heard.
A lawyer for Alan Black made the claim as preliminary proceedings got under way ahead of a new inquest into the Kingsmill shootings in 1976.
Ten textile workers were shot dead by the side of a road near the Co Armagh village after masked gunmen flagged down the minibus they were travelling home from work in.
The killers asked all the occupants of the vehicle what religion they were.
The only Catholic worker was ordered away from the scene and the 11 remaining workmates were then shot.
Mr Black survived, despite being shot 18 times. He was the only survivor.
At the first preliminary inquest hearing in Belfast’s Old Town Hall, barrister Eugene McKenna, representing Mr Black, told Northern Ireland’s senior coroner John Leckey that his client suspected state involvement.
“Mr Black believes there may have been agents of the state involved in the attack itself,” he said.
Mr Leckey said he had read Mr Black’s account of what unfolded on the day and had been shocked.
“It’s difficult really to take in the horror that he experienced,” he said.
The coroner added: “This was one of the most horrific incidents in the so-called Troubles and I’m sure not only for Mr Black, but for the families [of the dead], the horror of what happened is still very much to the forefront of their minds.”
No-one has ever been convicted of the murders.
There were 12 men in the gang that committed the attack.
The ten men who died were John Bryans, Robert Chambers, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Robert Freeburn, Joseph Lemmon, John McConville, James McWhirter, Robert Samuel Walker and Kenneth Worton.
The court heard that Richard Hughes, the Catholic man who managed to escape the carnage, has since died.
The IRA never admitted responsibility for the murders but an investigation by the police’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) three years ago found that members of the republican organisation did perpetrate the attack, motivated purely by sectarianism.
Northern Ireland’s Attorney General, John Larkin, ordered the fresh inquest last year after a long campaign by bereaved relatives.
By Gemma Murray
17 February 2014
Memorial Wall in memory of all those who lost their lives in the Kingsmills Massacre.
Families of Kingsmills victims will today attend Belfast inquest court for a preliminary hearing into the deaths of 10 men killed in an horrific roadside shooting.
Sole survivor of the massacre, Alan Black, said he is “very relieved” that it has finally got to this stage. He said the inquest into the deaths is “long, long overdue”.
The first inquest into the atrocity was held in 1977. No evidence was heard and an “open verdict” was recorded.
In June 2011, a HET report brushed aside all excuses that the IRA had not been responsible and said the murders had been “pure sectarianism” and “appalling savagery” which had been planned for some considerable time before being carried out.
Mr Black, who still suffers from the injuries he received during the shooting, said of today’s preliminary hearing : “This is a giant first step and I never thought I would see this day coming, not for a long long time. None of this would have happened without John McConville’s sisters. They led the way in this. All of this is down to their perseverance and determination to get to the truth of the whole thing.”
Karen Armstong, 56, whose big brother John McConville was murdered, said she started to push for the inquest independently “more than a year ago”.
“So we contacted the attorney general and corresponded with him for a couple of months. I am the oldest sister, having lost our parents, so I felt we could not go through the rest of my life not doing something,” she said yesterday.
“Even though we have this hearing tomorrow it is still very difficult for us as a family to have to face up to listening to the hard facts that may come out. Obviously tomorrow it is a preliminary hearing and we are not sure what the outcome of that will be.”
Mrs Armstrong said her family “loved my brother John so much and had such respect for him”. “John was 20, the oldest, and would have been 58-years-old now,” she added.
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy, who has campaigned for the reopening of the Kingsmills inquest, added: “I expect the inquest to be formerly opened tomorrow morning and the coroner will indicate the information he needs to proceed.
“The inquest has been pursued by all the families. I am pleased we have got to this stage that the inquest is being reopened. It has been a struggle and a battle for all of the families over the 38 years since the dreadful events of Kingsmills, and it is a landmark step in the quest for maximum justice. I hope to provide whatever support I can.”
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer has also been heavily involved in helping Kingsmills families fight for a fresh inquest and justice.
“Monday’s preliminary hearing is just the first step in the process of addressing that unacceptable situation,” he said.
“It must also be remembered the Kingsmills massacre is linked to numerous other murders in south Armagh so this inquest could be an extremely significant process indeed.”
Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was murdered in the atrocity, said: “We are so thankful it has got this far. We all called for an inquest, and we are here now.”
On January 5, 1976, just after 5pm, the Kingsmills massacre took place in south Armagh.
Gunmen stopped 12 workmen travelling home to Bessbrook from a textile factory in a red minibus, lined them up against the side of the road and shot them.
One Catholic workman was pulled from the line-up and asked to flee the scene. Then the gunmen opened fire.
One of the men – Alan Black – was shot 18 times, but survived. He is now the sole survivor of the atrocity.
The men who were murdered on the roadside were: John Bryans; Robert Chambers; Reginald Chapman; Walter Chapman; Robert Freeburn; Joseph Lemmon; John McConville; James McWhirter; Robert Samuel Walker; and Kenneth Worton.
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 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.
Fr Alec Reid ferried messages between republicans and UK and Irish governments, and was witness to arms decommissioning
Fr Alec Reid was threatened with death in 1988 as he tried to stop out of uniform corporals David Howes and Derek Wood being beaten and shot in Belfast. (Photograph: Ballesteros/EPA)
22 November 2013
An Irish priest who played a key role in brokering peace in Northern Ireland has died.
Fr Alec Reid, 82, acted as a clandestine go-between ferrying messages to and from republicans and the British and Irish governments in the earliest stages of the peace process in the 1980s.
Years later, with paramilitary ceasefires delivered and the 1998 Good Friday peace accord signed, he acted as an independent witness to the decommissioning of the IRA’s arsenal of weapons.
During the Troubles his image was seared into the public conscious when he was pictured kneeling over the bloodied corpse of one of two British soldiers he performed the last rites on after they were beaten and murdered by a republican mob in west Belfast.
The Redemptorist order of Catholic priests, of which the Co Tipperary born cleric was a member, announced that he died peacefully in hospital in Dublin.
The Irish president, Michael Higgins, led tributes to the late cleric, who in his later years made Dublin home. “Fr Reid will perhaps best be remembered for the courageous part he played in identifying and nurturing the early seeds of an inclusive peace process,” he said.
“Fr Reid’s role as a channel for peace laid the ground for the achievement of the IRA ceasefire and created the political space for the multiparty talks that ultimately led to the Good Friday agreement. While he spent the last few years of his life in Dublin, Fr Reid would have been gratified by the positive transformation that is under way throughout Northern Ireland, and especially in the Belfast that he loved so well.”
The cleric had a long association with Clonard church in west Belfast and his funeral will be held there on Wednesday.
“He will be especially remembered for his work in the Northern Ireland peace process,” the Redemptorist order said.
Reid was a key confidante of Sinn Féin’s president, Gerry Adams, and the republican leader trusted him to ferry messages to and from the then Social Democratic and Labour party leader, John Hume, and contacts in the British and Irish governments.
Adams on Friday described the cleric’s former base in Clonard as “the cradle of the peace process”.
He said he was tenacious in his efforts to end the conflict. “There would not be a peace process at this time without his diligent doggedness and his refusal to give up,” said the Sinn Féin leader.
Adams, who recently visited Reid at his hospital bed, said he and the cleric had many discussions during the Troubles about how the violence might be ended.
“Out of those conversations emerged a commitment to dialogue as the first necessary step along that process and a commencement of a process in the early 1980s to commence a process of dialogue with the Catholic hierarchy, SDLP leader John Hume and the Irish and British governments,” he added.
Seven years after the signing of the Good Friday agreement, Reid was again called upon to help the peace process move on. The presence of the cleric and Methodist minister the Rev Harold Good, as the IRA put their weapons beyond use, was vital in convincing those sceptical of republicans’ intentions.
The priest once famously recalled that an armed IRA member present for the decommissioning act handed over his assault rifle, which Reid said became the last weapon to be “put beyond use”.
“The man handed it over and got quite emotional,” said Reid. “He was aware that this was the last gun.”
Seventeen years earlier, the cleric witnessed the brutality of IRA violence when he tried desperately to save the lives of the two soldiers who had inadvertently driven into the funeral procession of an IRA member.
He was unable to stop corporals David Howes and Derek Wood being beaten and shot, having been threatened with death if he did not get out of the way.
The killings was one of the most shocking incidents of the entire Troubles.
While the dramatic picture of the cleric knelt beside Howes was beamed around the world, no one would know until years later that beneath his coat that day Reid was carrying an envelope containing one of the numerous top secret messages he ferried between Sinn Féin and Hume.
The churchman’s career was not without controversy. In 2005 he prompted outrage in some quarters when he likened the unionist treatment of Catholics in Northern Ireland in the past to the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews.
By Philip Bradfield
11 November 2013
The man who allegedly shot Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville was yesterday named as former Sinn Fein councillor and Belfast IRA commander Pat McGeown.
It was claimed yesterday that he also shot dead ‘Good Samaritan’ Protestant workman Sammy Llewellyn when he went to help Catholics on the Falls Road board up windows after an IRA bomb in 1975.
“I was recently approached by grassroots republicans who were sympathetic to the McConville family,” Jean McConville’s son Jim said yesterday in a Sunday paper.
“I was given some details of what happened and only two weeks ago I gave Pat McGeown’s name to my solicitor.”
The paper claimed that McGeown was only 17 when he shot Mrs McConville in the back of the head, and that he later rose to become a close political confidant of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.
The News Letter understands McGeown’s name had been widely linked to Mrs McConville’s murder before he died in 1996.
Gerry Kelly MLA said at McGeown’s funeral that he had been a prisoner in “Cage 11” of the Maze with Gerry Adams. Adams officially launched the Pat McGeown Community Endeavour Award at Belfast’s Upper Springfield Development Trust in 1998.
He described McGeown as “a modest man with a quiet, but total dedication to equality and raising the standard of life for all the people of the city”, adding that McGeown “would have been one of the last people to expect an award to be given in his name, and yet few others could have deserved the honour more”.
Mr Kelly said McGeown started “barricade duty” at 13 and then joined the local unit of the IRA in the Beechmount area. He added that “at one point he held the most senior rank in the Belfast brigade of the IRA”.
The book Lost Lives, which lists all those who died during the Troubles, said McGeown’s health never recovered after 47 days on hunger strike.
He was jailed in the Republic for explosives offences aged 14 and at 16 was interned before being imprisoned for a bombing attack.
He served 15 years for bombing the Europa Hotel and was the Officer Commanding of the IRA in the Maze. After being released in 1986, he went on to become group leader of Sinn Fein on Belfast City Council.
Sinn Fein yesterday declined to offer any comment.
Another Sunday paper yesterday reported that the IRA member, then aged 16, who drove Mrs McConville away from her children has phoned her daughter Helen McKendry to apologise.
Recording of deceased Belfast IRA commander Brendan Hughes names Sinn Féin president as giving execution order
2 November 2013
Jean McConville, who disappeared from west Belfast in 1972, with three of her 10 children. (Photograph: PA)
A tape recording of a deceased Belfast IRA commander in which Gerry Adams is accused of ordering the murder and secret burial of a widowed mother of 10 in 1972 will be broadcast for the first time this week.
A former IRA hunger striker, Brendan Hughes, alleges the Sinn Féin president was one of the heads of a unit that kidnapped, killed and buried west Belfast woman Jean McConville. Hughes, who died in 2008, is recorded as saying: “There was only one man who gave that order for that woman to be executed – and that man is now the head of Sinn Féin.” Hughes also says that Adams went to the McConville children after their mother was abducted and promised an internal IRA investigation. “That man is the man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. I did not give the order to execute that woman. He did.”
Adams is challenged on the BBC’s Storyville programme over whether he was a senior Provisionals commander in Belfast at the time McConville was abducted, just before Christmas 1972. “That’s not true,” Adams replies, adding that he has not “shirked” his own responsibilities in the conflict. The Sinn Féin leader has always insisted that he was never in the IRA.
In response to the tape, Adams, who is the Sinn Féin member for Louth in the Irish parliament, accuses his former friend of lying. “Brendan is telling lies,” Adams tells the programme. He adds: “I had no act or part to play in the abduction, killing or burial of Jean McConville or any of the others.”
An expert forensic detective tells the joint BBC Northern Ireland-RTE production that the IRA sometimes weighed bodies down with heavy stones to ensure that the corpses would not surface if the bogs they were buried in ever dried up.
Storyville reveals that the first of the “disappeared” to be found back in 1999, north Belfast man Eamon Molloy, had received the last rites from a Catholic priest. The priest saw Molloy tied naked to a bed and asked his captors if any of them had rosary beads that their prisoner could hold when he was to be shot.
Security sources in the Republic told the Observer last week that up to four additional men who were “disappeared” by the IRA have not yet been identified by the organisation set up to find the Troubles’ missing victims. The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) has so far found eight of the “disappeared”, including McConville, but seven on their official list are still unaccounted for.
A spokesman for the ICLVR, Geoff Knupfer, said: “At this moment there is no information to suggest there is any addition to the list.” However, security sources insist that at least four IRA victims were buried in secret. The film is to be broadcast on BBC4, BBC Northern Ireland and RTE on Tuesday.
It includes a reading of the late Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘The Bog Queen’, which the Nobel laureate agreed could be used in the programme to remember the plight of the “disappeared”.
**According to the BBC, this the first time a civic service has been held to mark the June 1973 bombings, and no permanent memorial exists to mark the bombings, nor any list of names.
The scene in the aftermath of the Provisional IRA bomb that exploded in Railway Road, Coleraine on June 12, 1973. The explosion killed six civilians.
11 June 2013
ONE of the darkest days in Coleraine’s history – the IRA bombing of Railway Road forty years ago – will be commemorated by a service in the town centre on Wednesday afternoon.
Six people were killed, all pensioners and 33 others were injured, including some schoolchildren in the devastating car bomb attack of June 12, 1973.
A Coleraine Borough Council commemoration will take place from 2:50pm at Coleraine Town Hall and the adjacent War Memorial.
A short service will be led by the Mayor’s Padre, followed by a wreath laying and a minute’s silence. The public are welcome to attend to pay their respects, council said.
UUP councillor, Willie McCandless recalls the events vividly: “The infamy of that day has remained with me over the past 40 years and I remember the victims every year. I was 20 years of age when the bombing occurred and was employed in Ballantyne Sportswear Coleraine. When the news came through to us in the factory it was incorrectly communicated that the bomb had exploded at the Railway Station.
“I immediately rushed there as my father had been due to complete some building repair work. I remember dodging a police officer to get through and was relieved to find out that the information was inaccurate and that my father had been transferred to work at Ballymoney station that day.”
Speaking of Wednesday’s commemoration, councillor McCandless added: “I hope that people from all sections of the community will join with us in remembering those lives which were so needlessly and tragically taken and that we can all work together to ensure that our children and grandchildren never have to face these dark days again.”
Former Ambulance Service worker, councillor David Barbour, recalled feeling the ground heaving beneath his feet as he stood beside his vehicle at Chapel Square.
He said: “It was my duty to collect nursing staff and take them to the scene to see what could be done as well as collecting people suffering major injuries and transporting them to the Accident/Emergency Centre. The scene was of people lying in several places, rising smoke, black dust, and damaged buildings.
“The activity at the hospital was hectic as medical, nursing and technical staff selected patients for appropriate treatment. I wondered for some time how staff would cope with such a major incident. They actually did well in the face of such a challenge and health service staff in town as visitors volunteered their services if required.”
Former Limavady mayor, Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey, brother of notorious IRA man Dominic McGlinchey was convicted of planting the bomb and served 18 years in prison.
The first bomb exploded outside a wine shop around 3pm on Railway Road, while a second device detonated five minutes later at Hanover Place, adding to the panic and confusion in the area. At the time the IRA had sent a warning for the second bomb but said it had mistakenly given the wrong location for the first.
The six pensioners who died in the atrocity – Elizabeth Craigmile (76), Robert Scott (72), Dinah Campbell (72), Francis Campbell (70), Nan Davis (60), and Elizabeth Palmer (60) – were all Protestant.
the bombings brought about a violent backlash from loyalist paramilitaries, who swiftly retaliated by unleashing a series of sectarian killings on the Catholic community culminating in the double killing of Senator Paddy Wilson and Irene Andrews on June 26 that year.
In his book Years of Darkness: The Troubles Remembered, academic Gordon Gillespie described the attacks as “a forgotten massacre” of The Troubles
**In 2009, Ó Brádaigh made headlines…after he would not condemn the murder by the Continuity IRA of Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon, County Armagh. (BBC)
IRA chief of staff and president of Sinn Féin
‘The armed stuggle and sitting in parliament are mutually exclusive,’ said Ruairí Ó Brádaigh.
5 June 2013
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who has died aged 81, was an IRA army council member, the founding president of Provisional Sinn Féin in 1971 and an IRA army council member. He led the Provos until 1983, through the most violent years of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, until he split with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness over the peace process. In 1955, Ó Brádaigh had led the biggest IRA arms raid ever on an army depot in Britain, but from 1979 he was involved in a power struggle with the two northerners and was finally ousted when Adams replaced him as Sinn Féin president and McGuinness became its chief negotiator.
Ó Brádaigh regarded himself as keeping alive pure Republicanism, inherited from the IRA of 1916. He remained committed to the 1921 constitutional policy of refusing to take part in democratic politics until Ireland was reunited. He believed bitterly that Adams’s and McGuinness’s policy of using “the armalite and the ballot box” would perpetuate partition and keep “the occupied six counties”, as he termed Northern Ireland, inside the UK. In 1986 Ó Brádaigh said: “The armed struggle and sitting in parliament are mutually exclusive.”
He regarded the IRA ceasefire of 1996, the Good Friday agreement of 1998, the decommissioning of IRA weapons in 2006 and McGuinness becoming deputy first minister in a power-sharing government in Belfast in 2007, with the Rev Ian Paisley as first minister, as total betrayal.
After the 1983 split with the Provos, Ó Brádaigh formed the Continuity IRA and Republican Sinn Féin, which had the odd distinction in 2004 of being the only Irish organisations on President George W Bush’s list of banned foreign terrorist organisations in the US, even though they were not active, while another splinter organisation, the Real IRA, perpetrator of the 1998 Omagh bombing, was.
Ó Brádaigh had been instrumental in founding the Provos after a disagreement in 1971 with his one-time close IRA associate Cathal Goulding over moves by Goulding to participate in Irish politics and take seats in the Dáil. Sinn Féin had previously fought elections on an abstentionist ticket and Ó Brádaigh had won a seat in 1957.
For Ó Brádaigh, born Peter Roger (hence “Rory”) Casement Brady into a middle-class Republican family in Longford, Ireland, the commiment was personal loyalty. His father, Matt Brady, who died when he was 10, was an IRA man who suffered badly from injuries inflicted in 1919 by the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Ó Brádaigh was educated at St Mel’s College, Longford, and University College Dublin, and graduated in commerce and with an Irish language-teaching certificate. He became a teacher at Roscommon vocational school, resigning during periods in prison. He joined Sinn Féin at university, and the IRA in 1951. In 1955, he led a 10-member IRA group in an arms raid on Hazebrouck Barracks, near Arborfield, Berkshire, which successfully netted ammunition and weapons, including 55 Sten guns. However, many of the weapons were recovered when the first of the two vans taking them to a hideout in London was stopped for speeding. Ó Brádaigh, in the second van, stored his haul and returned to Ireland but an address in the first van led the police to the store.
In 1956, in the IRA’s Northern Ireland border campaign, codenamed Operation Harvest, Ó Brádaigh was part of the planning group and second in command of the western attack. A police barracks at Derrylin, County Fermanagh, was hit and an RUC constable, John Scally, killed. Ó Brádaigh and others were arrested the next day across the border in Cavan and imprisoned for failing to account for their movements. Shortly after his release, Ó Brádaigh was interned at the Curragh military prison. In September 1958 he and Daithi Ó Conaill escaped by cutting through a wire fence, and Ó Brádaigh became the first Dáil member on the run.
As IRA chief of staff, he penned the ceasefire standing the organisation down and bringing a formal end to the border campaign. In 1968, when protestant gangs began firebombing Catholic streets in retaliation against civil rights concessions by the Unionist government, only six IRA guns could be found to defend the burning homes. The bitter slogan painted on walls in Catholic areas was “IRA … I Ran Away”. Ó Brádaigh, working with Sean MacStiofain and Seamus Twomey, began recruiting a new IRA and seeking money and weapons.
The Dublin leadership found willing northern recruits in young men like such as Adams, then 20 and active organising street fighting in Belfast, and McGuinness, 19, similarly active in Derry.
As president of Sinn Féin, Ó Brádaigh was responsible for the Sinn Féin policy, Éire Nua, new Ireland, which proposed a federal Ireland reunited in four provinces, one of them Ulster. He did shift Sinn Féin in 1979 to allow recognition of the Irish special court in Green Street, Dublin, because so many activists were being tried there on charges of IRA membership, himself included, and being convicted with no evidence, on the grounds that their refusal to recognise the court was deemed proof of guilt. But he would not move on parliamentary abstentionism.
A sensitive and courteous man, an Irish traditional music enthusiast, Ó Brádaigh was not immune to the horror of bloodshed. I was standing nearby at a Sinn Féin annual conference in the Mansion House in Dublin in 1978 as he took a message saying that two IRA bombers, whose wives were delegates, had blown themselves up in Belfast the previous night. He had to tell the wives. He went white and broke into a sweat. I interviewed him later and he said that he felt in middle age that he now understood that pain was real for all affected, even British soldiers. That realisation did not change his commitment to “the armed struggle”.
As president of Sinn Féin after 1971, Ó Brádaigh was involved in negotiations with the Irish and British governments, something both governments denied, and in international publicity and IRA fundraising campaigns. In 1974 he took part in the Feakle ceasefire talks with protestant church leaders and in 1976 met the Ulster Loyalist co-ordinating committee at their request, to discuss whether their policy of an independent six-county Northern Ireland could fit with the nine-county old Irish kingdom of Ulster in Éire Nua.
In 1974, he testified before the US Senate committee on foreign relations about the treatment of IRA suspects in Northern Ireland. The same year, the State Department revoked his multiple entry visa to the US. In 1975, FBI documents described him as a “national security threat” and a “dedicated revolutionary undeterred by threat or personal risk”, but recorded that the visa ban was requested by the British Foreign Office, supported by the Dublin government. Ó Brádaigh also carried a British passport in the name Peter Brady, legally obtained through British-Irish citizenship agreements, which he claimed he used to continue to enter the US.
In 2005, Ó Brádaigh, a keen historian, donated a set of papers of the National University of Ireland. They included notes that he had taken during secret meetings in 1975-76 with British agents which confirmed that Britain did consider withdrawal from Ireland.
Latterly Ó Brádaigh was seen in Ireland as almost a comic figure, as modern Republicanism followed Adams and McGuinness into constitutional politics, but he continued to have influence, particularly abroad, often being interviewed in the US by video link.
He and his wife, Patsy, had six children.
• Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (Peter Roger Casement Brady), IRA leader and politician, born 2 October 1932; died 5 June 2013