John Downey held in Ireland for questioning about 1972 Fermanagh explosion
Rory CarrollThe Guardian
5 Nov 2018**See also this story on the Hyde Park bombingJohn Downey outside the Old Bailey in 2014 (Photograph: Mark Thomas/Rex)A man accused of murdering four soldiers in an IRA bomb attack in London’s Hyde Park in 1982 has been arrested on suspicion of murdering two other soldiers in a separate attack.
Members of the Garda Síochána and the Northern Ireland police service (PSNI) arrested John Downey, 66, on Monday night in Co Donegal, in the Republic of Ireland, in a joint operation. He is due to appear at the high court in Dublin on Tuesday and is expected to face extradition proceedings.
It is understood that Downey was arrested on suspicion of abetting an explosion and of murdering Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston, 32, and Private James Eames, 33, two soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), in Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland in 1972.
The arrest was a dramatic reversal of fortune for Downey. He walked free from the Old Bailey in February 2014 after his trial for the Hyde Park murders collapsed because of a secret letter from the British government that gave him a guarantee he would not face trial, a revelation that caused uproar.The bodies of horses of the Household Cavalry lie in the road following the Hyde Park bomb attack (Corbis)
Downey’s lawyers argued that he should not face trial because he was one of 187 IRA suspects who were sent letters giving “a clear and unequivocal assurance” that they were no longer wanted by any police force in the UK. The British government gave the assurance in return for the IRA’s promise to decommission its arms as part of the Good Friday peace deal.
Downey had pleaded not guilty to the murder of four soldiers from the Household Cavalry who died in the blast on 20 July 1982, along with seven of their horses. The bomb had been concealed in a car and was detonated as the soldiers rode past on ceremonial duties.
Supporters and relatives of the four soldiers – Trooper Simon Tipper, 19, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, 19, Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, 36, and Lieutenant Anthony Daly, 23 – condemned Downey’s release and vowed to continue to fight to see justice done.
The victims’ families are pursuing a civil action against Downey, seeking financial compensation and pushing for a finding that he was liable for what happened.
Monday’s arrest, however, related to the deaths of the UDR soldiers a decade before the Hyde Park attack. Johnston and Eames died when an IRA bomb exploded in a car they were checking in Enniskillen on 25 August 1972. Their families have been kept informed of developments.
The PSNI reopened an investigation into the attack several months after the collapse of Old Bailey trial, leading to the joint operation with police in Donegal.
“Members of An Garda Síochána attached to the National Bureau of Criminal Intelligence arrested a 66-year-old male this evening, 5 November, in Donegal on foot of a European arrest warrant and is expected to appear before the high court in Dublin tomorrow 6 November 2018,” the Garda Síochána said in a statement.
The arrest will add pressure on authorities to pursue other alleged IRA men who were given so-called on-the-run (OTR) letters by Tony Blair’s government. Critics labelled them a “get out of jail free card”, but officials said they were part of an administrative scheme that merely informed recipients of statements of fact.
Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, welcomed Monday’s arrest.
**See also this 2012 article here.News Letter
1 Sept 2018**13 years later. What a joke.Robert McCartney and sonThe Police Ombudsman is due to publish its report on the murder of Robert McCartney in the Markets area of Belfast some 13 years after his brutal death.
The body confirmed the release date after being approached by the News Letter
The 33-year-old father of two died in the street from knife wounds after a fracas erupted in Magennis’ bar in 2005. His death was widely blamed on IRA members and came at a fragile time politically – before the IRA had decommissioned or Sinn Fein had signed up to policing.
Despite the large number of people in the bar when the row began, no-one reported seeing anything.
The Police Ombudsman took statements from around a dozen members of Sinn Fein who were in the bar, but who were not prepared to engage with the PSNI at that time.
Despite attempted prosecutions, nobody has ever been convicted for the murder.
The ombudsman told the News Letter this week that it was almost ready to release its report.
“We have completed our enquiries and are currently finalising a report on our findings, which will be provided to the family in the coming weeks,” it said.
The matter arose again after the DUP and SDLP at Belfast City Council prepared a motion calling on Sinn Fein members who were in the pub to come forward to the PSNI - and for the ombudsman to finally release its report.
Robert’s sister, Catherine McCartney, said: “I will be glad when it is finally completed but what is actually in it is a different thing altogether.”
She does not have her hopes up for the report. The ombudsman played a key role in the investigation, which it is not set up to do, she said. “I have never believed there was a proper investigation.”
By Suzanne BreenBelfast Telegraph
26 July 2018Jean McConville’s sons Thomas and James outside screening in BelfastTwo sons of IRA murder victim Jean McConville staged a protest outside a cinema showing a film that includes alleged details of their mother's death.
James and Thomas McConville stood outside the Moviehouse on Belfast's Dublin Road last night as media gathered for the Press screening of I Dolours
The film tells the story of Dolours Price, the IRA woman who drove Mrs McConville, a mother-of-10, to her death.
It includes video footage of an interview Price gave to journalist Ed Moloney in 2010 in which she names Gerry Adams as the officer commanding the Belfast Brigade and alleges that he sent her to bomb England. Mr Adams denies being a member of the IRA.
Price was involved in driving several alleged informers across the border where they would be killed and secretly buried.
She said she was acting as a member of a secret group in the IRA, the Unknowns. In the interview, she said she opposed 'disappearing' and secretly burying alleged informers, arguing rather that their bodies should be left on the streets "to put the fear of God and the republican movement into anybody who would chose that way of life". But she claimed that loyalty to the leadership caused her to follow orders. She alleged Mrs McConville confessed to the IRA to being an informer for money. Although asked about disappearing people, Price agreed that it was undoubtedly a war crime. James McConville said her claims did not tally with what the family had been previously told by the IRA.
He insisted his mother was not an informer and said he wanted a meeting with Mr Moloney to discuss the case. He said he would like to hear the full unedited tapes of Price's interview.
A 2006 Police Ombudsman report found no evidence to suggest Mrs McConville was an informer. The 36-year-old widow was dragged from her home in Divis Flats in 1972. Her body was found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth, in 2003.
Dolours Price was a strident critic of the Sinn Fein leadership whom she believed had abandoned republicanism. She died in 2013. I Dolours
goes on general release in cinemas across Northern Ireland on August 31.
Bimpe ArcherIrish News
16 January 2018Bobby Sands' son Gerard (front right) carries the coffin of his grandmother Rosaleen Sands at St Oliver Plunkett's Church, Blackrock, Co Louth. Picture by Mal McCannSHE was one of the most famous mothers in the world, but none who depicted Rosaleen Sands in scores of films, documentaries and books knew the real woman, mourners at her funeral heard yesterday.
Mrs Sands, the mother of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, died last week [January 12] aged 95, surrounded by her family.
Bobby's former cellmate 'Tomboy' Loudon was among those who travelled from across Ireland to pay their last respects at St Oliver Plunkett's Church at Blackrock, Co Louth.Rosaleen Sands in 1981
Other mourners included former Newry Sinn Féin councillor Pat McGinn although there were no senior party members present.
His son Gerard, who maintains a low public profile, helped his uncle John and cousins carry Mrs Sands's coffin to the church.
Her daughter Bernadette Sands-McKevitt said they "were an ordinary family, whose life was reshaped by extraordinary events".
She was supported by her husband Michael McKevitt, who was released from prison in 2016 after completing a sentence for directing terrorism.
Gardai maintained a low-key presence outside the church.
"Many claimed to know Rosaleen Sands (and she) figured in many books, films and documentaries that were written and produced by people who never met her," Mrs Sands-McKevitt said.
She told how her mother was born in the Markets area of south Belfast in 1922 and her father died when she was just 12 years old.
"She was a working class girl from a working class area and my mother never forgot her roots.
"She was a principled person who had times of trouble."
The young Rosaleen Kelly was set to emigrate to New Zealand, with a job lined up at the other end of the long journey, when she met her husband John Sands.
The couple would go on to marry and raise four children.
None of the children were allowed to "leave the house without first saying our prayers blessing ourselves with holy water".
When their son Bobby was jailed, "my parents never missed a visit" and when the hunger strikes began "set about doing all in their power to highlight" the protest.
"They suddenly found themselves thrown onto the world stage as they desperately tried to save their son.
"Heartbroken she pleaded with Bobby. He made one simple request to her - to stand with him and not against him.
A young boy carrys a picture of Bobby Sands at the funeral of Rosaleen Sands the mother of Bobby Sands at St Oliver Plunkett's Church, Blackrock Co Louth Picture Mal McCann.
"It was a choice that no mother could contemplate, but it was one that she had to make.
"She left his life in God's hands and placed her trust in others to bury her son."
Mrs Sands-McKevitt, a founding member of the dissident republican 32 County Sovereignty Movement, then denounced her brother's former comrades from the pulpit.
"It was a trust that was breached. We found out years later (through documents) that Bobby's final burial wishes, which were not known to us at the time, were not followed."
She said, that in the years that followed Mrs Sands "continued to support prisoners and their families" and was always there "when each of her children suffered".
"She was an inspiration to us all and set a fine example to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren."
She finished by reading a poem written by Bobby Sands for his mother; among the lines:
(Young boy carries photo of Bobby Sands at the funeral)
How you found strength I do not know
How you managed I’ll never know,
Struggling and striving without a break
Always there and never late.
You prayed for me and loved me more
How could I ask for anymore
And reared me up to be like you
But I haven’t a heart as kind as you.
Mrs Sands was buried privately afterwards at Belfast City Cemetery.
Mrs Sands is survived by her children Marcella, Bernadette and John.
Martin McGuinness personally set up the rendezvous which led to the brutal murder of a suspected IRA informer, the Government was told in 1987.BreakingNews.ie
29 Dec 2017Previously secret files in the Department of Foreign Affairs reveal the then Bishop of Derry Edward Daly made the damning claim seven months after the killing of Frank Hegarty.
Bishop Daly said Mr McGuinness normally did not get his "hands dirty" but had run out of henchmen in the city.
Mr Hegarty, a Provo quartermaster in Derry, was abducted from Buncrana, Co Donegal, and shot in the head in May 1986 after he had been lured home with claims he would be safe.
His body was dumped on the side of a border road with his eyes taped.
A typed letter, marked secret, was filed to the Department of Foreign Affairs by an official who had met Bishop Eddie Daly and talked about the execution.
Released under the 30 year rule, it said: "The Bishop understands that, far from using a henchman (as he would ordinarily do), McGuinness personally arranged the rendez-vous with Hegarty from which the latter did not return."
Bishop Daly said the former IRA commander turned peacemaker had been doing "reckless things" at the time.
He said these actions would make Mr McGuinness "vulnerable if he were to come under media scrutiny".
Over the years Mr McGuinness, who died last March, faced repeated questions over the Hegarty murder but always insisted he had "no role whatsoever".
The dead man's family have said the former Deputy First Minister persuaded Mr Hegarty to come home. And Bishop Daly believed them.
It is understood Mr Hegarty fled to England, protected by British intelligence, and is reported to have given information on a dump of IRA arms smuggled from Libya before being lured home.
Bishop Daly said Mr McGuinness assured relatives on a number of occasions that Mr Hegarty would not be harmed.
The Bishop was reported to have said: "McGuinness would usually try to 'keep his own hands clean' in an affairs of this sort but, with the number of Provo volunteers in Derry reduced... by rumours that Hegarty had 'squealed', McGuinness was left in a position for several months last year in which he had to do much of 'the dirty work' on his own."
Bishop Daly said he was certain Mr McGuinness was a Provisional IRA Chief of Staff "at least for the North-West if not for the entire North".
The letter was dated January 22 1987, about seven months after the murder.
It was sent to Dublin and copied to the Tánaiste and the Ambassador in London, as well as the secretary of the Irish Government's Anglo-Irish Secretariat.
It has been reported Mr McGuinness met Mr Hegarty's mother Rose on numerous occasions as he tried to coerce him to return home, including a claim he went down on bended knee.
A sister of Mr Hegarty is also said to have unwittingly driven him to the rendez-vous in Buncrana.
The documents can be read in the 2017/20/17 file from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Martin McGuinness also threatened to hold a dead IRA man's body for a week amid tensions over paramilitary shows of strength at funerals, the state papers have revealed.
He personally delivered the chilling message to Bishop Cahal Daly's secretary as a stand-off ensued over the burial of Larry Marley in Belfast in April 1987.
Marley, the mastermind of the 1983 Maze escape, was shot dead by the UVF in front of his wife and newborn son at their home in Ardoyne.
Amid a huge security operation, his funeral was delayed for three days and there were two failed attempts to bury him as a heavily armed police cordon stepped in each time to stop shots being fired.
At one point during the stand-off Marley's body had to be embalmed for second time while in the family home and the RUC threatened to seize the remains under public health laws.
Documents released from the Department of Foreign Affairs reveal Mr McGuinness issued the warning to the bishop's emissary Fr Hugh Starkey as he mediated between the Marley family and the RUC.
He said McGuinness told Cahal Daly's secretary: "We have the body and will keep it for a week, if necessary, until the Bishop speaks."
The papers claimed Mr McGuinness was smarting over comments made by Bishop of Derry Edward Daly about restricting IRA funerals amid paramilitary shows of strength.
Bishop Edward Daly had raised concerns that he had to say "enough is enough" and feared that if he did not take "strong and dramatic" action that some Provos might be emboldened enough to fire shots inside a church rather than outside.
A Foreign Affairs official said Mr McGuinness wanted to force Bishop Cahal Daly to make a public statement, "preferably a rebuke to the police and sympathy with the predicament of the family".
He noted that the Bishop "wisely refused to be drawn into this trap".
"Bishop Daly's refusal to act according to Sinn Fein's bidding has created a resentment towards the Church in that section of the nationalist community which Fr Starkey hopes will only be temporary," the file said.
Marley's funeral and burial lasted seven hours. A Foreign Affairs official watching the events said it was the "biggest propaganda coup since the 1981 hunger strike".
In the days after the funeral, Cahal Daly, then Bishop of Down and Connor, called on the RUC to rethink its approach to dealing with paramilitary funerals.
The documents also state that Fr Starkey reported suspicions that Marley had been "set up by his own people" as part of an internal Provo feud.
The priest recalled one visit to the Marley home during the stand-off as "unsettling and macabre".
With the coffin in the house, Fr Starkey said prayers while an IRA guard of honour stood by.
The funeral eventually took place with the RUC keeping three feet from the mourners who flanked the coffin.
Fr Starkey told Foreign Affairs he felt he pulled a "master stroke" just before the coffin was taken from the house when he told everyone in the house to get on their knees and recite the rosary.
He said it reminded them it was a religious ceremony not a political event.- PA
State Papers 1987: Sinn Féin president was accused of being behind the killings
Peter Murtagh, Ed CartyIrish Times
29 Dec 2017The eight-man IRA unit killed in a shoot-out with soldiers following the bombing of the Loughgall RUC station. Clockwise from top left: Gerard O’Callaghan, Antony Gormley, James Lynagh, Eugene Kelly, Declan Arthurs, Patrick McKerney, Seamus Donnelly and Patrick Kelly. (Photograph: PA)Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was rumoured to have set up a notorious IRA gang for ambush by the SAS as they tried to blow up a police station in May 1987, previously secret files have revealed.
A Sinn Féin spokesman on Friday dismissed the claim as ‘utter nonsense’.
Eight members of the Provisional’s East Tyrone Brigade were shot dead after they loaded a 200lb bomb onto a stolen digger and smashed through the gates of the RUC barracks in Loughgall, Co Armagh.
British Army special forces were lying in wait and killed them all, along with innocent bystander Anthony Hughes.
Declassified documents released through the National Archives in Dublin revealed that ballistic tests on weapons found on the dead were used in 40-50 murders, including every republican killing in Fermanagh and Tyrone in 1987.
Three civilian contractors had been murdered in the counties that year along with officers in the RUC and British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment.
The rumour about Mr Adams was passed on to the Department of Foreign Affairs by the highly respected Fr Denis Faul about three months after the Loughgall operation.
The priest, who had been at school in St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon with Padraig McKearney, one of the IRA gang, said the theory doing the rounds was that “the IRA team were set up by Gerry Adams himself”.
Fr Faul said he was “intrigued” by the theory.
Mr Adams declined to comment on the contents of the file when contacted in recent days.
A spokesman for Sinn Féin said on Friday the suggestion that Mr Adams might have “set up” the Loughgall gang was “utter nonsense”. He said he had spoken with Mr Adams’s office about the matter but not with the former party leader.
Fr Faul, a school teacher and chaplain in Long Kesh prison who died in 2006, said the rumour was that two of the gang - Jim Lynagh, a councillor in Monaghan, and McKearney - “had threatened to execute Adams shortly before the Loughgall event”.
It was being claimed that Lynagh and McKearney “disliked Adams’ political policy” and that they were leaning towards Republican Sinn Féin.Weapons recovered
Eight guns, including six automatic rifles, a shotgun and a pistol, were recovered from the bodies of the attackers. In a letter to Brian Lenihan – then tánaiste and minister for foreign affairs – dated May 20th, Northern Ireland secretary Tom King disclosed that ballistic tests showed that “the weapons recovered were responsible for every single murder and attempted murder in Fermanagh and Tyrone this year, and indeed further afield as well”.
Those killings included three civilian contractors as well as members of the RUC and Ulster Defence Regiment.The wreckage of the mechanical digger and the van used by the IRA men at Loughgall. (Photograph: Tom Lawlor)
Details of the government’s response, and reactions to it, are contained in State papers relating to Lenihan. They show how the government held firm in the face of criticism from republican elements in Ireland and the United States, as well as from within Fianna Fáil, but also baulked at a suggestion from King that an appreciative letter from him be made public to underscore joint British-Irish resolve to defeat terrorism.
On May 9th 1987, the day after the attack, the tánaiste condemned it as a “futile act of violence of the Provisional IRA”, which he said had “warped policies”.
In a follow-up statement to the Dáil on May 12th, Lenihan branded the IRA’s campaign of violence “morally wrong” and instanced how it had murdered a civilian and used his body “as bait to murder two policemen” as well as torturing informers.
Lenihan said the only way to address injustices in the North was through politics and not “indiscriminate violence”, a position not adopted by Sinn Féin, the IRA’s political wing until 1996.‘Security benefit’
Two days after that Dáil statement, Daithí Ó Ceallaigh, an Irish diplomat at the Anglo-Irish Secretariat (the Belfast-based bureaucracy operating the Anglo-Irish Agreement), cabled Dublin following a briefing from the British giving details of the attack and noting that “one particular security benefit has been the removal of three very experienced paramilitaries – Lynagh, Paddy Kelly and McKearney”.
The cable also says King was very grateful for Lenihan’s Dáil statement, which he felt would have “significant benefits in convincing unionists in Northern Ireland of the determination of the Irish government to co-operate with the British government on security matters” and bolster nationalists who support constitutional methods and eschewed violence.
He wished to write a letter of thanks to Lenihan and to publish it.
“Speaking personally,” wrote Ó Ceallaigh, “I told my opposite number that I saw no advantage in publishing such a letter. I have consulted [Michael] Lillis [head of the Irish team in Belfast], who considers it would be very damaging to publish any such letter.”
Dublin cabled back that it agreed fully with this – “the sec. state should not repeat not publish letter”, it said.
In the following days, another Belfast-based Irish official, David Donoghue, embarked on a series of meetings with Catholic religious figures and the deputy leader of the SDLP, Seamus Mallon, filing reports back to Dublin each time, each marked “Secret”.
Bishop Cathal Daly wanted the RUC to give a full account of what had happened, nationalist reaction to which he thought would not benefit Sinn Féin in west Belfast.
Bishop Edward Daly said Lenihan “got it about right” in his reaction to Loughgall. The bishop told Donoghue he was “struck by the lack of sympathy in the Derry area with the dead IRA men”, whom he described as having been “armed to the teeth”.
The bishop was “affected by his own abhorrence of the Provisional IRA and the disgust he felt at their hypocrisy”, Donoghue reported.
“As a further example of the IRA’s hypocrisy, [Daly] mentioned a recent case in which a Derry post office was robbed by two men, one of whom the post mistress recognised as a prominent Sinn Féin spokesman. Within half an hour a Sinn Féin councillor had called round to sympathise with the postmistress and, within an hour, Sinn Féin had issued a statement deploring such anti-social acts.”‘Madman’ Lynagh
Bishop Joseph Duffy told Donoghue that Sinn Féin had tried to organise the funeral of Lynagh but he had refused to deal with them, talking only to the family.
Duffy told Donoghue that Lynagh, who came originally from Monaghan, “was regarded locally as a ‘madman’ who would ‘have to have been put away, one way or the other’,” and had been responsible for “some 20 murders”.
Other voices, however, attacked the government’s condemnatory response.
Lenihan responded to Rev Joseph McVeigh from Fermanagh that he would “make no apology for condemning the campaign of violence of the IRA”.
The Irish United Counties Association of New York, of which Martin Galvin – director of Noraid, Sinn Féin and the IRA’s US fundraising arm – was secretary, wrote to Lenihan, asserting the IRA men had been “summarily executed”.
“The Irish Republican Army volunteers were Irishmen fighting on Irish soil for the freedom of a portion of Ireland. The British barracks which they intended to attack, as well as the British troops, constitute an illegitimate fort and foreign army of occupation,” said their letter, signed by Galvin and the organisation’s president, Frank Feighary.
Uinseann MacEoin, an architect and republican activist, told Lenihan he had been “viciously anti-Irish”, a view rejected by the minister who told him and a handful of Fianna Fáil members who objected to his comments that they were in line with party policy of supporting peaceful politics only. - Additional reporting PA
Suzanne BreenBelfast Telegraph
20 October 2017Breege and Stephen Quinn, parents of IRA murder victim Paul (inset)The parents of a south Armagh man beaten to death by the IRA have accused local Sinn Fein politician Conor Murphy of "not lifting a finger" to help them find justice.
Breege and Stephen Quinn were speaking before today's 10th anniversary of their son Paul's murder.
The 21-year-old was assaulted by a 12-strong IRA gang with iron bars and nail-studded cudgels in a barn along the border on October 20, 2007.
His parents will lay flowers at his grave in Cullyhanna today and a Mass will be held for him in the village on Sunday.
"The pain is as great now as it was 10 years ago," Mrs Quinn said. "We will never rest until we get justice. Sinn Fein should hang their heads in shame for their response to Paul's murder."
After the killing Mr Murphy - who was then Stormont's Regional Development Minister - said he had spoken to the IRA and was satisfied it wasn't involved. He linked the murder to a feud among criminals.
Former Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern and the SDLP both asserted that the young Cullyhanna man wasn't a criminal.
The Quinns have repeatedly asked the Sinn Fein politician to lift "his disgraceful slur" against their son.
Mr Murphy told yesterday's Irish News that claims he had branded Mr Quinn a criminal were "without any foundation".
He stated that he had condemned the murder and "said consistently that the Quinn family deserve justice".
He called on anyone with information about the killing to contact the PSNI or Garda.
Although more than 20 people have been arrested during the Quinn murder investigation - including Padraig 'Paudie' Treanor, a former driver of Mr Murphy's - none has been charged.
Mrs Quinn said: "In 10 years, Conor Murphy as our local political representative has never lifted a finger to help us.
"Indeed, he caused us great distress at a time when we were already living a nightmare. Conor Murphy branded our beautiful boy, who did nothing whatsoever to deserve the awful death he received, as a criminal.
"We have repeatedly appealed to him, as a politician and a father, to withdraw his disgraceful slur against our son. He has refused to do so. For him to try to now make it out that he has supported us is nauseating."
Mr Quinn said Sinn Fein leaders could visit south Armagh and "secure justice for us within an hour because it's prominent members of the Provisional movement who murdered our son".
TUV leader Jim Allister last night accused Sinn Fein of "brazen and disingenuous spinning" after the killing and recalled Mr Murphy's claims at the time.
"A minister of the Stormont Assembly proclaimed that he had been to see the IRA leadership," he said.
"The incident speaks to the immorality of the sort of Executive some are so desperate to see return."
Mr Allister pointed to DUP statements expressing outrage at the killing.
"What did the DUP about it? Nothing. That is because this murder was politically inconvenient for those who sustained Sinn Fein in government."
He added: "People like Paul Quinn and Robert McCartney have been completely forgotten by the political establishment."
Every major bone in Mr Quinn's body below his neck was broken in the murder. He was targeted after clashing with local Provisionals over minor matters in the months before his death.
By Conor Humphries | BELFASTReuters
21 March 2017Martin McGuinness, the former Irish Republican Army commander who laid down his arms and turned peacemaker to help end Northern Ireland's 30-year conflict, died on Tuesday after a decade as deputy first minister of the British province.
As a young street fighter in Derry and later as a politician and statesman, McGuinness saw his mission as defending the rights of the Catholic minority against the pro-British Protestants who for decades dominated Northern Ireland.
But for his critics, that cause was never enough to justify the IRA's campaign of bombings and shootings that killed hundreds of British soldiers and civilians.
In his later years McGuinness was hailed as a peacemaker for negotiating the 1998 peace deal, sharing power with his bitterest enemy and shaking hands with the Queen, though the gestures were condemned by some former comrades as treachery.
He was forced to step down in January, a number of months before a planned retirement, because of an undisclosed illness.
At the time a frail and emotional McGuinness told a large group of supporters gathered outside his home in the Bogside area of Northern Ireland's second city that it broke his heart that he had to bow out of politics.
"I don't really care how history assesses me, but I'm very proud of where I've come from," McGuinness told Irish national broadcaster RTE.
He is survived by his wife, Bernadette, and four children.IRA COMMANDER
Born on May 23, 1950 in Derry, McGuinness in childhood experienced the contempt which many of the pro-British Protestant government had for the Catholic Irish minority who dreamt of joining with the Irish Republic to the south.
A trainee butcher, McGuinness abandoned his apprenticeship in 1970 to join the IRA as the guerrilla group began its 30-year campaign against British rule that Catholics found increasingly intolerable. He swiftly rose to become a senior commander.
McGuinness later admitted he was second-in-command of the IRA in Derry on "Bloody Sunday" - the day in 1972 when British troops in the city killed 14 unarmed marchers, ushering in the most intense phase of the Troubles.
A British government inquiry found McGuinness was probably armed with a sub-machine gun that day, but that he did nothing to justify the troops' decision to open fire on the marchers.
In 1973 he was convicted by the Irish Republic's courts of being an IRA member after being stopped in a car packed with explosives and bullets and was briefly jailed.
Fellow nationalist inmates recall him as a fierce football player in the exercise yard.
He spent years on the run and was banned from entering Britain in 1982, during the IRA's bombing campaign there, under the prevention of terrorism act.POLITICS AND PEACE
During the 1980s McGuinness emerged alongside Gerry Adams as a key architect in the electoral rise of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political ally, advocating a strategy of combining the use of the ballot box with that of the Armalite rifle.
First elected as a member of the Northern Ireland assembly in 1982, McGuinness played a crucial role in keeping the more militant wing of the IRA on board as elements of the leadership secretly probed the possibility of a negotiated settlement.
Following the IRA's second ceasefire in 1997, McGuinness became Sinn Fein's chief negotiator in peace talks that led to the landmark 1998 Good Friday peace accord.
Nine years later, the rise of Sinn Fein to become Northern Ireland's largest Irish nationalist party allowed McGuinness to become Deputy First Minister in the power-sharing government with bitter enemy Ian Paisley, the firebrand preacher many Catholics see as a key player in the genesis of the conflict.
McGuinness surprised many by forming a close working relationship with Paisley, the media dubbing the pair "the Chuckle Brothers". In 2012 he shook hands with Queen Elizabeth at a charity event in Belfast.
Such gestures alienated many former comrades who call him a traitor for helping to run the province while the Union Jack was still flying over it. McGuinness countered it was a stepping stone to their goal of a united Ireland.
Over the past decade, Sinn Fein has focused much of its resources on the Republic of Ireland, where it has grown from five to 23 seats of the 166-seat parliament in a decade.
A non-smoker, virtual teetotal and keen fisherman, McGuinness briefly moved south in 2011 for a failed run at Ireland's largely ceremonial presidency, wining just under 15 percent of the vote.
McGuinness leaves Northern Ireland at peace and hands over to a new generation with Sinn Fein a major political force across the island, and his dream of a united Ireland inching closer after the party recorded its best ever result in an election three weeks before his death.(Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Clarence Fernandez)
By Estelle ShirbonReuters
9 Mar 2017Catherine Corless has been haunted all her life by childhood memories of the skinny children from the local Catholic home for unmarried mothers and their babies in the small cathedral town of Tuam in the west of Ireland.
Known locally as the home babies, the children lived in secrecy behind the dark, high walls of the home run by nuns from the Bon Secours order. Some of them attended the same school as Corless, but they were kept apart from the other children.
Once, egged on by classmates, Corless played a trick on one of the home babies, handing over what looked like a sweet but was in fact only an empty wrapper.
"I'm so sorry for that. It's stuck me with, that memory. It was only later I thought 'that poor child never got a sweet, they would have loved a sweet'," Corless told Reuters in an interview at her home in the countryside outside Tuam.
Now a grandmother and amateur local historian, Corless has spent years painstakingly researching records to discover what happened behind those high walls, where unmarried pregnant women were sent to have their babies in secret.
Alone, often met with silence and obstruction from Church and state bureaucracies that held long-forgotten records, Corless eventually exposed the existence of a mass grave of babies and toddlers in a sewer on the grounds of the home.
The discovery, confirmed last week by the results of archaeological excavations, has horrified Ireland and caused a new wave of soul-searching about how women and children were treated at Catholic institutions in the past.TENDERS FOR COFFINS
"The recent horrifying revelations of a mass grave of babies in Tuam, discovered as a result of the relentless work of local historian Catherine Corless, often impeded, rarely assisted, is another necessary step in blowing open the locked doors of a hidden Ireland," said President Michael D. Higgins on Wednesday.
Born in 1954, Corless grew up on a farm near Tuam, worked as a typist-receptionist as a young woman, then married and raised her four children at home. In the 1990s, she became interested in local history and took a part-time course on how to conduct historical research using primary sources.
In 2012, she offered to write an article for a local journal on the mother-and-baby home about which very little was known.
At first she tried archival newspapers, but all she could find were advertisements tendering for child-sized coffins for the home. There were precise size specifications and the coffins were required to have brass handles and a brass crucifix on top.
"That got me thinking, there must have been a lot of deaths in the home if they were putting out tenders for coffins every six months," said Corless.
The breakthrough came when she obtained the death certificates of all the children who died at the home. She had no idea how many there would be. When the answer came, she was stunned: in the 36 years the home was open, from 1925-1961, 796 children died.
"It was like a bolt of lightning. It just went through me. Is that possible?" said Corless, describing that moment.
There was no trace of those children in any of the local cemeteries, and no written records of their places of burial.
Government records show that in the 1930s-1950s more than one in four babies born out of wedlock in Ireland died, a rate more than five times that of children born to married parents.
The records do not show how many children were living in the Tuam home at any given time, but suggest mortality rates that were even higher. In 1947, 49 babies were born in the home and 30 more admitted under the age of one. Forty-six children died there, most before their first birthday; the oldest was three."A MOTHER'S GRAVE"
The vacant home was demolished in the 1970s. A housing estate was built in its place, with a large playground tucked away behind some of the back yards.
It had long been rumored locally that there was an unmarked children's graveyard on the site, and a grassy corner near the playground had been tended for years by residents who installed a small grotto with a statuette of the Virgin Mary.
By comparing old and new maps of the site, Corless established that the mysterious, informal children's graveyard was located in the same place as a very old sewage tank.
Her research was published locally, and eventually made national and international headlines in 2014, causing widespread revulsion and prompting the government to set up a commission of inquiry into the Tuam home and 17 other mother-and-baby homes.
So far, there have been two test excavations at Tuam and only a sample of remains were recovered for analysis. They were found to range from 35-week-old fetuses to three-year-old children.
"It's only the start. They have to find out. Are they all there?" said Corless. "They have to be counted if it's possible, because if they're not all there the question remains: where are they?"
Since her research became public, Corless has been contacted by more than 100 people with connections to the home, and has helped some of them locate long lost relatives or the graves of mothers who were forced to part from them when they left the home.
"I'm here for them. I'm happy I can help them. A lot of the time it's just a grave I find for them, a mother's grave. My work continues. I have a box of files of people who are looking for help," said Corless.
She said many of the siblings of the lost babies wanted them re-interred in a consecrated graveyard.
"They want a place to come to visit. It's hard for them to come in there and stand over a patch of ground in the middle of a housing estate and pay their respects."(Editing by Peter Graff)
Men to be tried for Belfast shooting of Joe McCann in the first prosecution over British army killings in Northern Ireland
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
16 December 2016Confrontation between British soldiers and the IRA in Belfast in August 1971. (Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images) Two retired soldiers have become the first members of the military to be charged with murder in connection with a Troubles-related death in Northern Ireland.
They are being prosecuted over the killing of Official IRA commander John McCann, who was shot dead in central Belfast in 1972. They are known as Soldier A and Soldier C and are believed to have been paratroopers.
Charging the pair 42 years after McCann’s death will provoke controversy over the retrospective prosecution of members of the security forces over killings related to the Troubles.
A Public Prosecution Service (PPS) spokesperson said: “Following a careful consideration of all the available evidence, it has been decided to prosecute two men for the offence of murder.
“The two defendants in the case are surviving members of the army patrol which shot Mr McCann. A third member of the patrol who also fired at Mr McCann died in the intervening years. At present, these individuals are not being named and are identified as Soldier A and Soldier C.”
The Official IRA leader was a republican legend even before his killing for organising the “Battle of Inglis’ Bakery” in the Market district of Belfast on 9 August 1971. Nine months later, McCann was shot dead by troops in the same area.
The original RUC investigation was conducted in 1972 and, based on the evidence then available, it was decided not to prosecute anyone.
The PPS spokesperson said: “The decision to prosecute is the outcome of a review which was undertaken after the case was referred to the director of public prosecutions by the attorney general for Northern Ireland in March 2014. The decision was reached following an objective and impartial application of the test for prosecution that was conducted in accordance with the code for prosecutors and with the benefit of advice from senior counsel.”
An annual commemoration of McCann’s death is held in Joy Street where he was gunned down and where there is a permanent plaque erected on a wall in his honour. His two sons, Ferghal and Ciaran, and his widow Anne run a website called bigjoemccann to commemorate the Official IRA commander.
The family claim McCann was shot in the back by members of the Parachute Regiment at a time when he was one of the most wanted republican gunmen in Northern Ireland.
McCann sided with the Marxist Officials when the IRA split in 1969. He took part in the Official IRA gun battle with the British army in the Lower Falls district a year later.
In 1971, McCann led an Official IRA unit that temporarily held back 600 British troops who had flooded into the Market district to arrest local men without trial when the late Edward Heath agreed to unionist demands for internment.
Photographed amid flames in Eliza Street, holding an M1 carbine rifle beside the Starry Plough – the flag of the Irish labour movement – McCann’s image during the gun battle became one of the earliest iconic images of the Troubles.
The PPS’ decision to prosecute two soldiers in connection with McCann’s death is bound to provoke fierce opposition from within the British military establishment, the Tories and the Conservative press.
Earlier this month, the Sun reported that police officers would be reinvestigating all 302 killings carried out by British troops. The paper said at least 500 ex-servicemen, many now in their 60s and 70s, would be “viewed as suspects” during the process.
The investigation was branded a witch-hunt by Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, a former army officer.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said on Friday that it was not behind the decision to prosecute the two ex-soldiers.
ACC Mark Hamilton, head of the PSNI’s legacy and justice department, said: “The decision to prosecute two former soldiers in relation to the death of Mr John Joseph McCann in 1972 follows an internal review of the case by the PPS. Itt is not as a result of a police investigation or re-investigation and, as such, we are unable to comment further on this.”
However, the PSNI and the police-linked Historical Enquiries Team (HET) – the body that investigates unsolved crimes from the near 4,000 deaths of the Troubles – has been criticised by unionist politicians, loyalist paramilitary representatives and former senior army officers for being one sided.
They allege the HET and the legacy investigations are over-focused on killings involving police officers and soldiers between 1969 and 1997.
The PSNI is carrying out criminal inquiries into the actions of a number of British soldiers during the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972 when troops opened fire on an anti-interment rally in Derry, killing 13 civilians. No soldier has ever been prosecuted over the Bloody Sunday deaths.
Denis Bradley, a former secret envoy between the IRA and the UK government and ex-chair of a consultative group investigating Northern Ireland’s past, has argued that putting the PSNI into the historic prosecutions from the Troubles is “polluting” policing in the region.
Bradley has expressed concern that Troubles-related crime inquiries could expose the identities of thousands of informers inside the IRA and loyalist terror groups if there was full disclosure of all British intelligence files in these investigations.
29 October 2016Raymond GilmourAn IRA informer living under an assumed name in Kent has been found dead at his flat.
Raymond Gilmour's body was found at his home, where it had lain undiscovered for up to a week, according to reports.
The 55-year-old former IRA member was forced to leave his native Derry after giving evidence in one of the republican supergrass trials in the 1980s.Raymond Gilmour in 1984 (Image source: Belfast Telegraph)
When the case brought against 31 people collapsed in 1984, MI5 moved him to England for his own protection.
Gilmour first joined the IRA in 1980 and was involved in several operations, mainly as a getaway driver.
He was arrested in 1981 after he and several others were intercepted on their way to attack police.
Gilmour's cousin was one of those killed on Bloody Sunday.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, friends said Gilmour had never got over being separated from his family in Northern Ireland, and had suffered from alcoholism and mental health problems prior to his death.
Thy blamed MI5 for 'abandoning' Gilmour, and failing to provide him with proper support (See: 'Raymond Gilmour: The lonely death of a Derry Catholic...')
His funeral will take place next week.
By Philip BradfieldNews Letter
20 Oct 2016The chief constable of Bedfordshire has addressed concerns that a probe into Stakeknife will focus on state actors at the expense of IRA personnel involved in some 50 related murders.
Stakeknife was an Army agent within the IRA who has been linked to some 50 murders. Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci has denied he is the agent.
Victims’ campaigners have expressed concern that the probe unveiled in recent days may focus primarily on the role of the state, at the expense of IRA members – and have asked how panel members were selected.
Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher has appointed two independent groups of experts to support the investigation, code name Kenova.Freddie Scappaticci in Belfast 2003 (Photo: Pacemaker via The Sun)
An Independent Steering Group (ISG) of senior law enforcement figures, has three members from the US and one each from Scotland, Australia and Northern Ireland – Baroness Nuala O’Loan.
A further six people will address the needs of the victims and their families via the Victims Focus Group (VFG). They are:
• Judith Thompson – the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Victims
• Maria McDonald – an Irish barrister who has acted as a consultant on international criminal law and victims’ rights
• Sue O’Sullivan – a former deputy chief of police (Ottawa) and Canada’s Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
• Mary Fetchet – a social worker who co-founded Voices of September 11th following the death of her son in the attacks
• Levent Altan – a former UK Ministry of Justice official who developed the European Union’s policy on victims’ rights
• Alan McBride – whose wife and father-in-law were killed in the IRA Shankill bomb in 1993. He is now a peace builder.
But victims’ campaigner Anne Travers expressed reservations.
“The only real victims on it are the lady from America and Alan McBride,” she said.
“I wonder how they were chosen? I would have liked to have seen more victims from Northern Ireland who lived through the Troubles, can empathise with families and who have a lived understanding of life here.
“I’m sure the panel chosen will do their very best but I feel something is missing.”
Another campaigner, Ken Funston of the South East Fermanagh Foundation, whose brother was also murdered by the IRA, said the probe would remove further resources from legacy policing.
“The confidence in the PSNI doing anything for ‘ordinary’ victims is ebbing away, the only way you can get anything done is to allege ‘collusion’,” he said.
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer accepted the right of the families concerned to the investigation, but insisted it would have to be fair and focus equally on state and IRA actors.
For each murder involving Stakeknife, he said, the victim will have been chosen by senior high-profile republicans, as will the killers and support staff.
“All this will have been reported back to Stakeknife’s handlers and will have been recorded in intelligence files,” he said.
Senior republicans must therefore be arrested and charged, he added.
But Mr Boutcher told the News Letter he would go wherever the evidence takes him.
“The remit of this investigation is clear – Operation Kenova will seek to establish if there is any evidence of criminal offences by any party in relation to cases connected to the alleged agent known as Stakeknife.
“We will go wherever the evidence takes us, regardless of who that might potentially implicate,” he said.
“I have made a pledge to the victims’ families that I will do everything in my power to establish the truth of what happened to their loved ones, and bring anyone who had any involvement in these crimes to justice.”
Explaining how the panel members were chosen, he said: “I have carefully put together the Victims Focus Group and the Independent Steering Group, as I believe the members are among the very best in their field.”
They have championed victims’ rights “in complex and challenging situations” he added.
Press AssociationBelfast Telegraph
14 Oct 2016Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, who is heading up the investigation into IRA agent StakeknifeSignificant new evidence has been uncovered by an English police chief investigating more than 50 murders linked to the Army's notorious IRA agent Stakeknife.
Victims' families have told stories never divulged before at the start of an independent probe by Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher into the high-ranking mole who led the IRA's "nutting squad" internal security unit while in the employ of the state.
A group of six international policing experts has been appointed to inform the investigation on a voluntary basis. They include senior police officers from the US, Scotland, an Australian ex-officer and ex-Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.
In 2003 Stakeknife was widely named as west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci but he has always strongly denied the allegation.
Mr Boutcher said: "This week we have heard things that from what the families have told me they have never told anyone before, because nobody has asked them.
"What I have been told this week is significant evidence against the people responsible for these offences."
He has asked the victims' families to give him time to investigate and recover the evidence.
"It is incredible what I have heard.
"There is a pessimism which I understand, I completely get, because people felt let down and almost abandoned.
"It almost feels like their rights were taken away from them because of the nature of what happened to their loved ones.
"They have now got a voice and that is this investigation, and they told me of what they saw at that time that they have never been able to tell anybody before and we need people to do that."
The investigation is centred on possible crimes by paramilitaries, agents and Army and police handlers linked to Stakeknife, allegedly the military's highest-ranking spy within the IRA.
Multiple murders, attempted murders and unlawful imprisonments are included in the probe.
NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence and counter-terrorism John Miller and Mike Downing, deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, will be part of the expert advisory group.
It will also include Kathleen O'Toole, part of the Patten Commission which reformed policing in Northern Ireland.
Iain Livingstone, Deputy Chief Constable with Police Scotland, and Nick Kaldas, a former deputy commissioner of police in New South Wales who has been working with the UN on a Hezbollah probe in the Middle East, complete the group.
A second team of six victims' representatives have been appointed to address the needs of Stakeknife's alleged victims and their families. It includes: Alan McBride, bereaved in the IRA's Shankill Road fish shop bombing; Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson and Mary Fetchet, who founded Voices of September 11 following the death of her son at the World Trade Centre in 2001.
The Stakeknife investigation was launched after Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory referred the multiple allegations to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton asked external police to undertake the probe in an effort to ensure its independence. No former or current officers who have served in Northern Ireland will work on the investigation, nor will ex or serving Ministry of Defence or Security Service personnel.
It is funded by the PSNI.
A 'wealth' of unseen evidence uncovered by fresh inquests set to be revealed
Jonathan CorkeMirror Online
1 Oct 2016The aftermath of the Mulberry Bush pub bomb The bombers behind two pub blasts in Birmingham over 40 years ago may finally be brought to justice by a DNA breakthrough.
Police re-investigating the 1974 IRA attacks – of which six innocent men were wrongly convicted – have found three profiles and two fingerprints on items collected in the aftermath.
The discovery by a £1.6million review codenamed Operation Castors was revealed in a top-level memo seen by the Sunday Mirror
The memo says the finds are being checked against databases in Britain, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
And it adds: “It is possible that this could generate new lines of inquiry.”
The attacks on the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the town pubs killed 21 people and injured 222. A third device was found near a Barclays bank.
The men convicted of the attacks, known as the Birmingham Six, spent 16 years in prison while the real perpetrators were never caught.
Now a “wealth” of previously unseen evidence is set to be revealed after fresh inquests were ordered following a lengthy campaign by relatives. In total, Operation Castors, which involved 16 officers and forensic experts, examined more than 18,000 items including exhibits, reports and statements.
The memo from the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism reveals how 35 exhibits from 1974 have been lost, saying this is “deeply worrying”.
It also condemns the original West Midlands Police probe into the bombings as “deeply flawed”.
In deciding to order the fresh inquests, Birmingham coroner Louise Hunt said police may have ignored two tip-offs the IRA were about to strike
Last week the Government told relatives wanting help with legal fees at the new hearings that direct Home Office funding had been refused.
29 Sept 2016Real IRA Leader Michael McKevitt had appealed over a civil court finding against him.A bid by two republicans to overturn a landmark civil ruling that found them responsible for the Omagh bomb has been rejected by the European Court of Human Rights.
Convicted Real IRA chief Michael McKevitt and Co Louth man Liam Campbell were two of four republicans ordered to pay £1.6 million in damages to bereaved relatives who took the historic case.
The Real IRA outrage in the Co Tyrone market town in August 1998 killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, and injured 200 others.
The pair took their case to Europe, arguing that the civil trial in Belfast High Court had been unfair.
They said the judge should have applied a criminal rather a civil standard of proof, due to the severity of the allegations, and further claimed that the evidence of an FBI agent heard during the trial should not have been admitted.
The seven ECHR judges unanimously rejected the case and made clear their decision was final.
"The applicants had not demonstrated that their trial was unfair, and the Court dismissed their applications," said an ECHR statement.
McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in August 2003 after being convicted of directing a terrorist organisation and being a member of the Real IRA.
The ECHR case was the latest in a series of separate legal attempts by the four defendants to overturn the 2009 civil judgment.
The relatives who took the action are still pursuing the damages.
No one has ever been criminally convicted of the bomb, which inflicted the most bloodshed of an single atrocity during the Northern Ireland Troubles.
One of the key witnesses in the families' case was FBI agent David Rupert, who had infiltrated the Real IRA.
He did not attend the trial in person due to concerns about his security and medical condition.
McKevitt and Campbell argued that their lawyers' inability to cross-examine Mr Rupert had been unfair.
The ECHR dismissed this argument, insisting the trial judge had taken the "appropriate safeguards and considerations" in dealing with the evidence of an absent witness.
The applicants also claimed the judge should have applied a criminal standard of proof - beyond reasonable doubt - rather than a civil one - balance of probabilities - due to the severity of the allegations facing them.
The European judges said that was not necessary because the proceedings had been for a civil claim for damages and there had been no criminal charge involved.
Rejecting both grounds for the application, the ECHR said: "The Court found that the national court's findings could not be said to have been arbitrary or unreasonable."
Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed in the bomb, described the ruling as "vindication" for the families.
"We feel like we have been under siege since the first judgment, with appeal after appeal," he said.
"We are relieved it is now over. The families have been vindicated.
"Enormous expense has been paid by taxpayers to make sure these people got the best of British and European justice. The British and Irish Governments must now make sure the interests of the victims comes first."
He said the authorities had to help the families recover the money owed to them.
"It would be a very hollow judgment if it was only words," he said.
"These people value money and it's where it can hurt them and both governments must work together to make sure the families receive the money that was awarded to them."
Mr Gallagher made clear the bereaved relatives would continue to campaign for a full cross-border inquiry into the Omagh bombing, amid persistent claims the outrage could have been prevented.
Diane Dodds, Democratic Unionist MEP, said it was unfair that the men had access to legal aid to fight their case in Europe and branded it an abuse of human rights laws.
"The reality is whilst these individuals had full access to legal aid during the appeal process, the families of those murdered in the Omagh bombing have not received a single penny from the civil ruling," she said.
"Innocent victims are tired of these double-standards."
Kirsty Blake KnoxIrish Independent
22 Sept 2016Dr John Anthony O’GradyDublin dentist Dr John Anthony O'Grady will be laid to rest at the Church of St Mary, Star of the Sea, Sandymount, this Saturday at 11am.
Dr O'Grady passed away at Blackrock Clinic following an illness on September 20.
He was subjected to a vicious kidnapping ordeal at the hands of ex-IRA man Dessie O'Hare in 1987.
Dr O'Grady, who had his dental surgery in Ballsbridge, was kidnapped from his home in Cabinteely on October 13, 1987, by O'Hare, also known as the 'Border Fox'. He was held captive for 23 days before his release. O'Hare was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Dr O'Grady is survived by his partner Rachel, children Darragh, Anthony, Louise and their mother Marise, and his siblings Willie and Catherine.
23 Sept 2016
Tributes have been paid to Dublin dentist John O’Grady who had two fingers cut off by former south Armagh IRA terrorist Dessie O’Hare. Mr O’Grady suffered the horrendous ordeal after being kidnapped from his Dublin home by Mr O’Hare in 1987.
The dentist was held prisoner for 23 days before being freed by the Garda, while O’Hare, also known as ‘the Border Fox’, went on the run, becoming ‘Ireland’s most wanted man’.
O’Hare chopped the tips of Dr O’Grady’s little fingers off with a chisel but this did not stop the dentist from later resuming normal life at his surgery in Ballsbridge.
A ransom of IR£1.5m was demanded from his father-in-law, which he was unable to raise. Dr O’Grady was finally freed by the Garda during a shoot-out in which one officer was seriously wounded and Dr O’Grady was shot in the hand.
O’Hare fled to Kilkenny where he was shot and injured by an Irish army sniper. He never apologised for his actions and justified them on the basis of “war”. He was sentenced to 40 years of which he served 16 in Portlaoise jail before being released under the Good Friday Agreement.
It is understood Dr O’Grady passed away on Tuesday in the Blackrock Clinic after having been ill for some time. Funeral details are to be announced.
Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, which has members in the Republic of Ireland, said Dr O’Grady epitomised the resilience of those subjected to the evils of terrorism.
“He was not prepared to allow terrorism to define his life, ultimately he triumphed,” he said. “How did he do so? By vowing that he would not be deterred from his work and vocation of providing service to the community through the dental practice he was attached to.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the O’Grady family, they have lost someone in Dr John whom they can and should feel very proud of.”
By Mark RaineyNews Letter
16 Sept 2016Portora Royal pupil Paul Maxwell was killed when the IRA bombed a boat owned by Lord MountbattenA film maker has angered some terror victims by describing the IRA attack on Lord Mountbatten’s fishing party in Sligo as “an act of war”. In an online pitch to raise funds for a short film about the 1979 bombing that claimed the life of 15-year-old Paul Maxwell, as well as the Queen’s cousin and two of his relatives, Joe Madden uses the word “war” several times.
Yesterday the ‘Boat Boy’ film appeal hit its target of £15,000 and the film-maker behind the project told the News Letter he hoped to begin filming as soon as possible.
Paul Maxwell’s family lived in Enniskillen but owned a cottage in Mullaghmore. The Portora Royal pupil had taken a summer job as a crew member on Mountbatten’s boat Shadow V and was saving his pay to buy a bicycle.
Mr Madden said he was prepared to meet any victims’ group concerned about his description of the film’s backdrop. He said: “Everyone talks about the Mountbatten death, but no one remembers a young boy, or very few people do, especially in England, so I really wanted to tell this story. “They (the victims’ groups) can call me and we can discuss it.
The thing that I have put up online is a pitch to get money for a short film. It will annoy some people but then other people, and especially English people who are our main financiers behind all this... that’s who we’re trying to sell it to.”
Mr Madden added: “I’m not saying it should have happened, or that it shouldn’t have happened, I’m not saying any of that. If they want I can send the script to them and they can have a read of it to see what they think. It’s dealing with a delicate subject so it’s always going to rub someone up the wrong way.”
In a video to promote the fundraising effort, Mr Madden says: “Boat Boy is not a politically motivated film. It is the coming of age story of Paul Maxwell and how in the summer of ‘79 he takes his first steps into becoming a responsible young adult with his first summer job. I wanted to show that, even in times of war, life must go on, and when I came across the story of Paul Maxwell I thought it was a really interesting way to express that idea. “Paul Maxwell tragically lost his life in an act of war. It is in this fatal climax that we are reminded that not all casualties of that are soldiers.”
Kenny Donaldson of the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) accepted that the film could prove to be “extremely powerful,” but said some of the language being used was unacceptable. “What happened in Mullaghmore, Sligo was an act of terrorism, an act of cold and brutal murder, an act of cowardice – it was not an act of war,” he said.
“If the narrative is not accurate to the reality of events then the film’s potential for good is thwarted. If it was a war then senior members of the republican movement, who now wear suits, and others who don’t belong to that elite, plus many others would be up in The Hague for serious war crimes.”
Paul’s mother Mary Hornsey said she has been “taken aback” in the past when her son’s murder has been the subject of press or television coverage without prior warning to the family. “That can come as an awful shock to people,” Ms Hornsey said.
Ms Hornsey revealed that she was never quite comfortable in the Mullaghmore cottage, and had reservations about Paul taking the Mountbatten job due to the security risk. “I was assured that there was going to be a lot of protection on that boat and that is why I said ‘okay then,’ but there wasn’t,” she added.
16 Sept 2016Ivor Bell leaves Laganside Court on Friday. The Veteran republican is due to stand trial for the involvement in the 1972 murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville. (Picture: Pacemaker)A veteran republican charged in connection with the IRA murder of a mother of 10 is to undergo medical examination to determine whether he is fit to plead.
Ivor Bell, 79, faces two counts of soliciting Jean McConville's killing in 1972.
The defendant was due to plead at a scheduled arraignment hearing in Belfast Crown Court ahead of his trial.
But the hearing was adjourned after Bell's barrister told the judge a medical exam was to be commissioned.
Granting the four week adjournment, judge Seamus Treacy said: "This relates to unfitness to plead issues."
White-haired, moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, sat in the dock during the brief legal exchanges.
His lawyers have made clear the pensioner denies the offences at previous hearings.
A number of Mrs McConville's children watched on from the public gallery.
The 37-year-old mother was dragged from her home in Belfast's Divis flats complex by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women.
She was accused of passing information to the British Army - an allegation later discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.
Mrs McConville was shot in the back of the head and secretly buried 50 miles from her home, becoming one of the "Disappeared" victims of the Troubles.
It was not until 1999 that the IRA admitted the murder when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.
Her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth by a member of the public in August 2003.
Nobody has been convicted of her murder.
The case against Bell is based on the content of tapes police secured from an oral history archive collated by Boston College in the United States.
Academics interviewed a series of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries for their Belfast Project on the understanding that the accounts of the Troubles would remain unpublished until their deaths.
But that undertaking was rendered meaningless when Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) detectives investigating Mrs McConville's death won a court battle in the US to secure the recordings.
It is alleged that one of the interviews was given by Bell - a claim the defendant denies.
Mrs Thatcher offered concessions to the inmates, but proposal was rebuffed, writes Alban Maginness
Alban MaginnisBelfast Telegraph
7 Sept 2016Every year, the British Government releases secret papers relating to Northern Ireland under the 30-years rule, and as time goes by we get to know a little bit more about the truth behind the Troubles. It can be a fascinating insight into the workings of the direct rule administration.
Recently, the Government released a memo from a British civil servant, Stephen Leach, to a more senior civil servant, John Blelloch, who served as a deputy permanent secretary during the hunger strikes in 1981. He had a crucial involvement at that critical time with Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister. The memo confirms that a "good offer" was made that could have ended the hunger strike and saved four or maybe six of the republican prisoners.
The official Sinn Fein narrative of the hunger strikes is that Margaret Thatcher was the Iron Lady, inflexible and immovable throughout, who was by her very inflexibility directly and solely responsible for the deaths of the 10 republican prisoners who were on hunger strike in Long Kesh.
Richard O'Rawe, who was PRO of the republican prisoners in Long Kesh during the hunger strikes, has courageously put forward in his books Blanketmen and Afterlives an alternative narrative which disputes that and which is much more credible.Bobby Sands
O'Rawe makes it abundantly clear that Danny Morrison of Sinn Fein told Bik McFarlane, the IRA leader in the prison, the terms of a British offer to end the hunger strike and that McFarlane then told O'Rawe and that both of them agreed that the offer was good. However, he points out that the hunger strikers themselves were never consulted on the terms of this "good offer". He argues strongly that Adams and a committee of leading republicans, for self-interested political reasons, refused this "good offer" from the British Government in early July 1981 and when it was repeated again on July 21, 1981.
The main reason for this, he suspects, was to ensure the safe election of Owen Carron in the by-election to fill the seat left vacant by the late Bobby Sands MP. If the hunger strike continued, electoral victory was assured.
If there was no continuing hunger strike, then the seat could have been lost to another nationalist candidate, or on a divided nationalist vote to a unionist, thereby depriving Owen Carron of victory. This would have prevented the emergence of Adams' political strategy for the republican movement. If that was the IRA strategy at the time, then it was both cunning and ruthless, involving the additional and unnecessary deaths of the six remaining hunger strikers.
This "good offer" was confirmed to intermediaries the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP) by Adams at a meeting in a house in Andersonstown in early July 1981. This is also referred to in Leach's Government memo.
The commission confirmed that Adams admitted to them in July 1981 that a "good offer" had been made by the British Government through a back channel whose code name was Mountain Climber. Adams also warned the ICJP to stay out of the process.
Richard O'Rawe has kept track of previously released Government papers and says that they substantially support his narrative. The recent Leach memo reinforces his argument.
He believes that Adams should apologise to the hunger strikers' families and the wider community.
He is adamantly of the view that, "the British were broke, the hunger strike broke the British".
As O'Rawe succinctly puts it: "The hunger strikers broke Thatcher's resolve."
In essence, that's why the British made a good offer, which met almost in full four out of the five demands of the prisoners. The most important concession made was the right to wear their own clothes and not be forced to wear the prison uniform, the very symbol of criminalisation. Criminalisation of the IRA prisoners was at the centre of the hunger strikes.
For years now, the republican leadership has rejected O'Rawe's account and has systematically tried to discredit both him and his version of events.
Fearlessly, he has countered their arguments and refuses to be bullied by them. He and his family have had to endure persistent vilification and criticism.
He has continued to examine the evidence that has come out through Government papers to strengthen his arguments. He has challenged senior republicans to debate with him publicly, but they have refused.
He has supported the idea of an independent inquiry into the hunger strikes and would be willing to give evidence to it. Sinn Fein has refused to participate in such an independent enquiry. The party has even refused to go on TV with him to debate the issues arising from the hunger strikes.
Now he says that they should have, "A bit of humility after 35 years - it's the decent thing to do".
The problem is, neither Adams, nor Sinn Fein understand either humility, or the truth.