Belfast News Letter
26 Feb 2016Alleged former IRA leader Thomas “Slab” Murphy was behind bars for the first time on Friday.
After being jailed for 18 months for tax evasion by the Irish courts, the bachelor farmer and self-confessed republican protested his innocence, claimed he was a victim and denied being at the head of a property empire.
The 66-year-old was found guilty of nine charges at the high security Special Criminal Court in Dublin.
Murphy, from Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, on the border with Northern Ireland, was found to owe the Irish exchequer taxes, penalties and interest of almost 190,000 euro (£147,000) for tax dodging from 1996-2004.
In a statement from a prison cell the alleged Provo chief said he would appeal and criticised investigations into him, the trial and the media.
“I am an Irish Republican and have been all my life,” Murphy said.
“For many years now I have been the subject of serial, prejudicial and wholly inaccurate commentary and media coverage. There have also been repeated assertions that I have amassed properties and wealth.
“This is utterly untrue. I do not own any property at all and I have no savings.”
Dressed in a pink shirt, brown jacket and slacks, Murphy showed little emotion in the dock as the sentence was delivered.
He acknowledged some family members and friends as he was led out of a side door of the court.
Murphy was jailed for 18 months for each of the nine counts of tax evasion, with the terms to run concurrently, meaning he could be eligible for release in a year.
He has no previous convictions.
Judge Paul Butler, presiding in the three-judge court, noted the publicity around the trial but insisted reports of Murphy’s republican links did not sway the verdict or the sentencing.
“It has no bearing whatsoever upon the Revenue charges,” the judge said.
“This court must and does treat the accused as a farmer and cattle dealer with no other connections, past or present.”
The judges said they took into account Murphy’s age, his clean record, that he had been on bail for several years which would have impacted his life and that he had continued to work in steady employment as he awaited trial.
Judge Butler also said the total proven tax evasion was “relatively small for such a long period”.
Murphy was sentenced in a non-jury court, which normally deals with terrorist and gangland trials, as Ireland votes in a general election.
And the decision of the three-judge court demanded more answers from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams over his description of Murphy as a “good republican”.
After voting in Co Louth where he is a TD, Mr Adams was asked if he thought the sentence would have any influence on voters’ choices.
“It shouldn’t have, but we’ll see,” he said.
Mr Adams also declined to comment on the timing of the sentencing.
“That’s a matter for the court but what we are concerned about is trying to bring about real change, real change in people’s lives. If you vote for the same crowd you’ll end up with the same thing,” he said.
The penalties for Murphy’s tax offences could have been as much as five years in jail or fines of up to 100,000 euro (£77,800).
The farmer, who has no previous convictions and works as a yardsman for a business in Crossmaglen, south Armagh, did not give evidence during the 32-day trial.
He also ignored questions on his way in to hear his fate.
At the hearing, Murphy’s defence team attempted to use his silence as further mitigation with the argument that he had not attempted to mislead the court.
The trial heard that the total tax bill for the nine years was 38,519.56 euro (about £30,000), and interest built up on those unpaid bills was 151,445.10 euro (about £117,000), taking the final amount owed to 189,964.66 euro.
He was charged with five counts under the Republic’s Taxes Consolidation Act and four under the Finance Act that he knowingly and wilfully failed to make tax returns and did so without reasonable excuses.
The court found he did not furnish Ireland’s Revenue authorities with a return of income, profits or gains or the sources of them over the period but received 100,000 euro (£73,000) in farm grants and paid out 300,000 euro (£220,000) to rent land.
In 1998, Murphy lost a £1 million libel action against the Sunday Times which described him as a senior IRA figure.
On one of only two other occasions when he has spoken publicly, he claimed he had to sell a home in order to pay for some of the costs of the failed lawsuit.
In his statement issued by his legal team, Murphy further denied two witnesses had been intimidated during the trial - a vet and a landowner he rented land from.
“This is absolutely untrue. The witnesses did give evidence. The prosecution’s legal team did not even allege there was witness intimidation,” he said.
Murphy also criticised the investigation by Revenue chiefs and the Garda.
“Despite never having been questioned by An Garda Siochana in relation to Revenue matters, I was arrested, charged and put on trial in the Special Criminal Court for failing to file tax returns in respect of farming,” he said.
“The case presented against me was that tax returns with an average liability of 4,279 euro tax per annum should have been filed by me over a nine-year period in relation to farming.
“The evidence called by the prosecution showed that tax returns were made by family members in respect of the farm, and that all tax on any profit from farming has been paid.
“I maintain my innocence in respect of these charges which date back 20 years.
“Naturally I am very disappointed at the verdict of the court and have instructed my legal team to pursue an appeal immediately.”
The Troubles were good to Thomas Murphy, Gerry Adams's 'decent friend' and 'good republican'.
18 Dec 2015Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy was a senior organising figure in the ‘South Armagh Brigade’ of the Provisional IRA'Slab' has never served time in jail but has become an enormously wealthy landowner and cattle dealer, and de facto owner of a network of fuel operations and property across Ireland and Britain.
During the 1970s, Thomas 'Slab' Murphy was a senior organising figure in the 'South Armagh Brigade' of the Provisional IRA, following in the footsteps of his father, Paddy, who was a member of the IRA in the War of Independence. Thomas was not known to take part in any attacks on soldiers or police, but was known for the continuance of his smuggling business.
The South Armagh brigade was one of the most active elements of the Northern IRA. It was responsible for the biggest single loss of life for the British Army since World War II when 18 members of the Parachute Regiment were killed in a double-bomb attack near Warrenpoint in August 1979. An innocent English tourist was also shot dead as the remaining soldiers overreacted to their losses.
The attack was the culmination of years of action by the South Armagh IRA which in the early stages of the Troubles, during the early to mid-1970s, often engaged British forces in prolonged and heavy gun battles.
British officers at the time likened the tight network of lanes and high hedges of south Armagh to the ground they had fought the Nazis in, in Normandy after D-Day.
Slab was a focus of attention for the British authorities not only for his involvement in the 'Movement', but also because of his open and large-scale involvement in smuggling.
The amount of money being raised through fuel-laundering throughout south Armagh and in particular around Slab's home right on the Border at Ballybinaby was so great that the British government passed an emergency piece of legislation, the Newry and Mourne Regulation of Hydrocarbon Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order in August 1990.
The law made it an offence to transport any form of hydrocarbon fuel along Larkins Road, on which Slab still lives in what, from the outside, appears to be an ordinary bungalow.
Larkins Road was the only thoroughfare in the United Kingdom in which it was an offence to drive an oil lorry. The law was never used against Murphy as he never drove any lorries containing fuel or much else.
Repeated raids were carried out on Slab's farm and extensive outbuildings and on diesel plants around south Armagh and north Louth but, with one or two exceptions, no one has served any deterrent prison sentence.
The IRA's fuel business turned south Armagh into a petro-chemical complex with dozens of small farms turned into diesel 'washing' plants, the farm buildings often rented for £1,000 in cash per week.
However, the residue of this trade is a disastrous level of pollution of the countryside. In recent weeks, the heavy rain has been literally washing diesel and other highly dangerous chemicals used in the 'washing' process out of soil and into streams and rivers.
The toxic waste from the diesel plants has for years been seeping into the Fane River and Lough Ross drinking water supplies that feed into the water taps of some 35,000 households in north Louth and south Armagh.
Slab's own home town of Crossmaglen receives its drinking water directly from Lough Ross, the same reservoir that the IRA fuel gangsters have been leeching toxic chemicals into for more than 20 years.
This is a legacy of the IRA in south Armagh that will take generations to clean up.
Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, whose farm straddles border, found guilty of failing to file tax returns in Ireland between 1996-2004
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
17 Dec 2015**See also: Will The Provos Stand By 'Slab'? - Ed MoloneyThomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, 66, faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced in January. (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA) An Irish farmer once named in court as a senior IRA commander has been convicted of tax fraud in the Republic.
Thomas “Slab” Murphy was found guilty at the special criminal court on Thursday of failing to make tax returns to Ireland’s Revenue Commissioners.
The 66-year-old, whom the Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, described as a “good republican”, will be sentenced in January.
Murphy from Hackballscross, County Louth, which is close to the border with Northern Ireland, had pleaded not guilty to nine charges of failing to file returns of his income, profits or gains and the actual source of his income to the inspector of taxes between 1996 to 2004.
But the three judges at the non-jury court in Dublin found Murphy guilty beyond all reasonable doubt on all nine offences.
The case came about after an investigation by Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau following a raid on his farm in 2006.
Murphy who was surrounded by a large group of supporters as well as members of his family was remanded on bail. He could face up to five years in jail.
In 1998 Murphy lost a libel appeal in Dublin court after the Sunday Times
alleged he was the director of the IRA’s bombing campaign in Britain as well as helping to import tonnes of weapons from Libya into Ireland during the 1980s.
According to a subsequent BBC investigation Murphy was estimated to control a fortune worth £40m, earned through diesel, cigarettes, grains and pigs.
Murphy, whose farm straddles Co Louth and Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, has never denied being a republican and has stressed his support for the peace process. The IRA’s South Armagh Brigade, which numerous books and documentaries have alleged Murphy commanded, has been loyal to the mainstream republican leadership and Sinn Féin.
Patrick MurphyIrish News
07 November 2015 The solution is simple. If there are going to be several competing centenary commemorations of the 1916 Rising next year, we can solve the problem of how to accommodate them all by doing what we now do best in Ireland - re-writing history.
We can create a revised version of the Rising, so that each group can justify its claim to be the true inheritors of the 1916 ideals. Welcome to Ireland, the land of instant history, where facts are flexible and the truth is a far-off planet.
So here is the (not very) authorised history of the 1916 Rising.
It all began when Pearse was walking down O'Connell Street one day, which was very hard to do at that time, because there was no O'Connell Street.
So he texted James Connolly to ask: "Where am I?" ("That's ridiculous", I hear you shout. You have a point, but is it any more ridiculous than claiming that the IRA's thirty-year war was for "equality" and not for a united Ireland? If we are going to re-write history, we may as well do it properly.)
Connolly replied by writing a pamphlet (Marxists love writing pamphlets) saying that he was busy preparing to serve King (meaning England) and Kaiser (Germany).
(We have reversed Connolly's views to accommodate almost every commemoration next year. Nearly everyone in Ireland now accepts the legitimacy of London rule in the north and Berlin rule, through the EU, across the whole island. So with a swift battering of the keyboard, all groups can now celebrate Irish "independence".)
While passing the GPO, Pearse noticed that it would be a wonderful setting for a rising. But while he was marvelling at the decor, he heard that Roger Casement had been arrested in Kerry.
Casement was later marched through the streets of Tralee to the Dublin train and not a single soul tried to rescue him. "Don't worry, Roger," the townsfolk would have shouted had they bothered to come out. "One day there will be a stadium named after you and your name will be on the lips of every planning official and health and safety officer in the north."
(I'm not sure which group we have re-written that bit for, but it might come in useful.)
So Pearse said: "Let us organise a rising, but it shall be a peaceful rising, because violence is wrong." (That covers the contradiction of preaching peace, while celebrating violence.) So they began their peaceful rising by entering into dialogue with a post office clerk and then engaging in bi-lateral talks, followed by a plenary session - just like they do at Stormont.
They later published the GPO House Agreement whereby the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) would join with all rebel groups to form the IRA, which would later revert to the IRB (Irish Republican Butterfly).They agreed that there should be an IRA for everyone in Ireland.
These IRAs would include the Real, the Surreal, the Continuity, the Intermittent, the Very Disruptive but Really Rather Nice and the Low-calorie, Sugar-free IRA. (I made most of those up, but that does not mean they do not exist. So all dissident groups are historically covered for their ceremonies. All we need now is justification for the individual party political commemorations.)
As the rising began Michael Collins said he would die for Fine Gael, so that it could invent austerity. Connolly said his death would be for the Labour Party, which would help to implement that austerity and de Valera said he would die, but not just yet, so that he could found Fianna Fáil to bankrupt the country.
All the other leaders decided to die for Stormont, so that people could become ministers without standing for election.
So there you have it. Our revised history of 1916 will now allow the various commemorative groups to march, make speeches, pontificate and scorn all rival commemorations.
However, the one thing which none of them will do is to solve the unemployment crisis in Ballymena. Commemorating the rising is seen as an acceptable substitute for failing to implement what it was intended to achieve, including for example, the Proclamation's objective of "the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation".
So the real inheritors of 1916 are neither politicians nor paramilitaries. They are those who, by their actions and principles, commemorate the rising in their daily work. These include for example, the community and voluntary sector, charities, credit unions, GAA clubs, Conradh na Gaeilge and the thousands of ordinary people who make Ireland a better place to live in.
Their history does not need re-writing.
The army double agent was known as Stakeknife, responsible for finding and killing those it believed passed information to the British security services during the Troubles
By AgencyThe Telegraph
22 Oct 2015Fred Scappaticci pictured in west Belfast in 2003 (Photo: PACEMAKER BELFAST)The IRA's most senior security force informer is to be investigated over at least 24 murders.
The army double agent was known as Stakeknife, a shadowy figure himself responsible for finding and killing those it believed passed information to the British security services during the Troubles.
At the heart of victims' concerns is whether those deaths could have been prevented and whether collusion in murder penetrated to the top of the British Government.
Freddie Scappaticci has strongly denied being the man behind the codename.
A police watchdog has passed information to prosecutors after examining the circumstances of murders attributed to Stakeknife's IRA "internal security team".
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Northern Ireland, Barra McGrory QC, asked police to investigate potential offences committed by Stakeknife.
He said: "I have outlined today extremely serious matters, perhaps the most significant in my time as DPP.
"I have not taken the steps to commence investigations lightly but, rather, consider they must be taken to ensure that public confidence can be maintained in the office of the DPP and in the wider criminal justice system."
He added a common link across a significant number of potential crimes, including murder, was the alleged involvement of Stakeknife.
"I confirm today that I have requested that the chief constable investigate a range of potential offences which relate to the alleged activities of an agent commonly known as Stakeknife."
Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman is investigating the murders of alleged informers by the IRA and the potential role of Stakeknife. It passed information to the DPP, which resulted in today's announcement.
Former Met Police commissioner Lord Stevens led three government investigations into security force collusion.
Relatives of the victims have pressed for a fourth more comprehensive and independent probe or public inquiry.
Frank Mulhern, whose IRA member son Joe was discovered in 1993 in a ditch near the Irish border in Co Tyrone with his body riddled by bullets, said there needed to be an independent investigation by an international police force.
He added: "It will continue to be covered up until we expose it and put a stop to it."
He said he had been pursuing the matter for many years and still hoped to receive justice.
"If he (the killer) was not being protected he would be in jail now. Of course he is being protected, even a blind man can see that."
Mr McGrory requested two separate investigations.
"The first will be an investigation of broad scope. This will seek to examine the full range of potential offences that may have been committed by Stakeknife.
"It will also include an investigation into any potential criminal activity that may have been carried out by security service agents."
• I'm no spy, says the man named as Stakeknife
PSNI ACC Will Kerr said police had received a referral from the Director of Public Prosecutions which the service was addressing.
"It would be inappropriate to comment further," he added.
Mr McGrory said Northern Ireland's attorney general John Larkin QC had recently been in contact with his office asking what action prosecutors may take about a particular murder implicating Stakeknife.
• What is the truth behind the story of Stakeknife?
"I have identified one case where I consider that there is now sufficient information available at this point to review a prosecutorial decision. This relates to a case involving an allegation of perjury in 2003.
"I have serious concerns in relation to this decision. Having reviewed all the available evidence I consider that the original decision did not take into account relevant considerations and also took into account irrelevant factors.
"I have concluded that the original decision was not within the range of decisions that could reasonably be taken in the circumstances."
The decision has been set aside and the DPP asked the chief constable to provide further material.
Prosecutor tells police to open inquiry into crimes including murder allegedly linked to British state’s agent inside IRA, named as Freddie Scappaticci
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
21 Oct 2015Freddie Scappaticci in 1987. (Photograph: Pacemaker) One of the British state’s most important spies inside the Provisional IRA codenamed “Stakeknife” is to be investigated by police over a range of serious offences, including murder, while operating as an agent.
Northern Ireland’s director of public prosecutions, Barra McGrory, announced on Wednesday that he had instructed the region’s chief constable to open an inquiry into crimes allegedly linked to the spy named as Freddie Scappaticci.
It is understood the DPP has informed the chief constable that the police investigation should include a fresh look at up to 20 killings by the IRA in connection with the Stakeknife controversy.
McGrory’s decision has opened up the possibility that the Belfast republican accused of being a key informer for Britain while running the IRA’s “spy-catching” unit could be questioned about his secret career in open court.
McGrory said he had taken the decision after receiving information from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, whose office investigated complaints about the police handling of murders and violent interrogations which families alleged were linked to the state agent.
McGrory said: “The ombudsman has carried out a comprehensive analysis of material emanating from the three investigations carried out by Lord Stevens into allegations of collusion. A common link across a significant number of potential crimes, including murder, was the alleged involvement of an agent of military intelligence codenamed ‘Stakeknife’.
“In addition, the attorney general of Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, has recently contacted me about a murder case to inquire about any action the Public Prosecution Service may be considering. This is a case in which the same agent is potentially implicated.
“In the light of all of this information, I concluded that I must exercise my power to request that the chief constable investigates matters which may involve offences committed against the law of Northern Ireland and did so on August 11, 2015.”
The DPP confirmed he was also instructing the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, George Hamilton, to hold a separate investigation into allegations of perjury relating to a case connected to the “Stakeknife” scandal back in 2003.
Stakeknife was allegedly in charge of the so-called “head hunters”, the IRA unit that searched for, tracked down, brutally interrogated and then killed suspected informers.
Stakeknife was said to command a tightly knit group of men who were responsible for the deaths of many IRA members, some informers, others who it turned out were “set up” by the agent, who were murdered, their bodies normally dumped on side roads along the south Armagh border after hours and days of torture.
A number of families of IRA members shot dead as informers after interrogation by the “head hunters” have made complaints to the police ombudsman claiming that Stakeknife’s handlers in the security forces failed to use their agent inside the Provisionals to prevent their murders. Many of these families have alleged that their loved ones were “sacrificed” by the security forces to keep Stakeknife at the head of the IRA’s counter-intelligence unit where he could provide the state with invaluable insider information.
Meanwhile the DPP and the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland said they had agreed that each of the two investigations be referred back to the police ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, so he can consider if any further inquiry should be made into the actions of the police in this controversy.
McGrory concluded: “Before making this announcement, I have had a number of meetings with the chief constable, the police ombudsman and the attorney general and we are agreed in our commitment to ensure that the public should be able to have full confidence in the criminal justice system. We will each play our role independently, openly and with integrity.”
After being named as one of Britain’s key spies inside the Provisional IRA in 2003, Scappaticci left Northern Ireland. He publicly denied he was an agent. Since then he has gone to court to prevent the media from identifying where he now lives and barring journalists from approaching him for interviews.
Scappaticci, the grandson of Italian immigrants now in his 70s, was said to be a “walk-in” agent who volunteered to work for the army’s military intelligence branch the Force Research Unit in the 1980s after a major falling out with IRA leaders in Belfast.
An audio tape posted on the internet, allegedly from General Sir John Wilsey, who was commanding officer of the British army in Northern Ireland between 1990 and 1993, recorded that the military regarded Scappaticci as “our most important secret”.
Wilsey is reported to have said on the tape: “He was a golden egg, something that was very important to the army. We were terribly cagey about Fred.”
By Vincent KearneyBBC News
2 October 2015Margaret Keeley claims Freddie Scappaticci interrogated and falsely imprisoned her in Belfast in 1994 An attempt to have part of a legal action held in secret against a man alleged to have been the most high ranking agent within the Provisional IRA will be heard early next year.
A woman claims she was interrogated and falsely imprisoned by Freddie Scappaticci.
He is alleged to have been an army agent codenamed Stakeknife.
Margaret Keeley is suing him, the Northern Ireland's police force and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for damages.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the MoD want some of the court hearings to be held behind closed doors for "national security" reasons.
Margaret Keeley claims the police and MoD both knowingly allowed her to be interrogated and threatened by a man working as an agent for the state over a two-day period in the New Lodge in Belfast in 1994.
She is claiming damages for personal injuries, false imprisonment, assault, battery, trespass to the person and misfeasance in public office.
The PSNI and the MoD are seeking to use what are called "closed material procedures" for the first time a civil case in Northern Ireland.
This would allow their lawyers to introduce sensitive information that could only be seen by the judge and a security-vetted "special advocate" who would be appointed to represent Margaret Keeley.
The advocate would not be allowed to give her or her legal team precise details about the sensitive material introduced during the secret section of the trial.
The police and the MoD argue that closed hearings are essential because some of the material is so sensitive it could potentially damage national security.
At the High Court in Belfast on Friday, Mr Justice Stephens said the application will be heard in February.
Freddie Scappaticci, the grandson of an Italian immigrant who came to Northern Ireland in search of work, denies he was an army agent.
An initial request to include him in the legal action was refused, but that decision was later overturned on appeal.
In his judgement overturning the initial decision, Mr Justice McCloskey said the allegations being made gave rise to "acute public concern and interest... and raise the spectre of a grave and profound assault on the rule of law and an affront to public conscience".
3 October 2015Forty years ago, on October 3, 1975, Dutch industrialist Dr Tiede Herrema was flagged down at a garda checkpoint as he drove to an early morning meeting at the Ferenka steel plant at Annacotty, Co Limerick.
When the chief executive of the factory complex confirmed his name, the 'guard' whipped out a revolver and bundled the 54-year-old into a getaway car. A phone call to the Dutch embassy demanded the release of three republican prisoners from prison. Failing the release of the trio, the industrialist would be "executed" in 48 hours.
It quickly became apparent to the authorities that the daring crime had been committed for largely personal motives. The bogus garda was rogue republican bomber Eddie Gallagher, on the run from the law north and south, and from ex-IRA pals now gunning for him.Abduction victim Dr Tiede Herrema
One of the three Gallagher wanted set free was his partner in crime, Rose Dugdale, who'd given birth to their son in Limerick Prison 10 months earlier. Gallagher's young accomplice, Marian Coyle, sought the release of boyfriend Kevin Mallon, who was serving time for IRA crimes.
The immediate response of Liam Cosgrave's FG/Labour government was that there would be no deals with terrorists, although they left open the suggestion that they wouldn't stand in the way of anyone - meaning Ferenka - that wanted to try paying a cash ransom.
The economy was on its knees after six years of Troubles and the ongoing slump from the 1973 oil crisis. Quite apart from the human tragedy, the kidnap and threatened murder of the boss of one of Ireland's biggest employers would surely send foreign firms packing and lower the boom on any future inward investment. The fate of the nation hung in the balance.
Industrial strife was the scourge of the time and the fitters at Ferenka abandoned their current unofficial strike to join a mass march through the streets of Limerick to demand Herrema's safe release. The city's Lord Mayor pleaded with the republican movement - who'd denied any involvement - to make a truce with the State and use their resources "to find this man and bring him back, otherwise 1,200 people will be out of work".
The 48-hour deadline passed and in the eternity that followed everyone feared the worst. Then, as hope was fading, fresh demands came through, including the shut-down of the strikebound Ferenka factory. The kidnappers hoped that the factory's giant parent company would lean on the Irish government to grant their demands, secure Herrema's release and get production rolling again. That hope was wildly misplaced.
The plant was shut down and the Army and Gardaí focused on the greatest manhunt in the history of the State, with troops posted at every port, airport and border back road, but all to no avail. In the absence of any hard leads, wild rumours filled the vacuum, including groundless whispers that the kidnappers were threatening to cut off one of their victim's feet.
Finally, after two weeks gone to ground, the kidnappers released a tape of Herrema's voice. He confirmed he was in good health. It was accompanied by new demands for a £2m ransom and a flight to the Middle East.
After two weeks in the dark, the nation awoke on a Sunday morning to radio bulletins of a dawn raid by Special Branch backed by snipers on a terraced house in the Kildare town of Monasterevin. As the guards smashed down the front door, Gallagher and Coyle retreated, shooting wildly, to an upstairs bedroom with their hostage. By early afternoon the sleepy estate in Monasterevin was swamped with security forces and media. One paper wrote: "The Hazel Hotel nearly ran out of food and by 2pm the only fare on the menu was haddock." That flippancy quickly flagged after a haggard Tiede Herrema came to a window and told the police to stay away. Everyone settled in for what would be a long siege.
After several days the kidnappers began accepting food placed in a shopping basket hoisted on a lowered rope. Days crawled by into weeks. When a demand came for fresh clothes, including three pairs of underpants and a petticoat, speculation mounted that they were sprucing themselves up for surrender. It turned out they just wanted clean undies. A failed attempt at another dawn raid through a back window left one detective wounded in the hand.
Then, on Day 17, the kidnappers asked for headache tablets. Hours later they threw their guns out the window and came out. Gallagher thought he had meningitis and asked for medical help. Herrema seemed in fine fettle. He flew home to the Netherlands, where he forgave his captors, saying: "They could have been my own children. They must have been through desperate times to come to this."
Now aged 94, Herrema has maintained close ties to Ireland, having been made an honorary Irish citizen shortly after his ordeal.
The kidnappers and their accomplices received a total of 71 years behind bars. Gallagher was reunited with his lover Rose Dugdale in Limerick Jail, where in 1978 they became the first convicted prisoners in the history of the State to wed behind bars. Dugdale was released in 1980, 10 years ahead of her husband.
In 2005, Gallagher recalled those turbulent times as "a bit like taking a stroll through a reptile pit".
Wright is believed to have been abducted, interrogated, shot dead and buried in secret by the IRA in 1972
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
15 Set 2015Friends and family carry the remains of one Séamus Wright. (Photograph: Cathal Mcnaughton/Reuters) The tragedy of Northern Ireland’s “disappeared” was all the more painful because so many of these victims were young, a priest has told mourners at the funeral of an IRA victim missing presumed dead for more than four decades.
After 43 years ex-IRA member Séamus Wright was finally laid to rest in his native Belfast on Tuesday.
He vanished in 1972 alongside Kevin McKee after the IRA suspected the pair of working as undercover agents for a secret army unity known as the Military Reconnaissance Force, which was carrying out a covert war against the IRA in Belfast during the Troubles’ bloodiest year.
They are believed to have been abducted from their homes in west Belfast, driven across the border, interrogated, shot dead and buried in secret.
DNA tests confirmed that remains found this summer at a bog in County Meath in the Irish Republic were those of Wright and McKee, whose funeral took place in Belfast on Monday.
At a requiem mass for Wright at St Agnes’s parish church in the Andersonstown area of west Belfast on Tuesday, mourners heard that Wright was a “deeply committed” family man with a “strong religious dimension” to his life.
The parish priest said: “He died a young man – just 25 years of age – and the death of a young person seems to hit us harder.” In his homily during mass Father Brendan Callanan added: “It has taken a long time for us to come to this point but we are here.”
Digging is continuing at the site where their remains were found. The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains believes the remains of another victim, the former monk turned IRA activist Joe Lynskey, are also in Coghalstown bog.
The most notorious case of the disappeared was that of Jean McConville, a widow and mother of 10 who was kidnapped, taken in a car from west Belfast across the border to the republic, shot dead and buried at a beach in Co Louth.
The former Belfast IRA commander and hunger striker Brendan Hughes claimed the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, had given the order for McConville to be killed and buried in secret to avoid political embarrassment for the republican movement. Adams has always denied any connection to the McConville murder or even being in the IRA.
Four people remain on the disappeared list, three of them believed to have been kidnapped and killed by the IRA. The missing presumed dead include SAS Captain Robert Nairac, who vanished while on a covert mission in South Armagh.
The other person on the list is Séamus Ruddy, a County Down schoolteacher and member of the Irish Republican Socialist party. He was abducted, tortured and killed by a faction of the Irish National Liberation Army in Paris in the 1980s. Despite searches in the French capital and in a forest in Normandy, Ruddy’s remains have never been found.
14 Sept 2015Relatives of one of the "Disappeared", victims of Northern Ireland's Troubles, have given him a Christian burial more than 40 years after his murder.
Kevin McKee's remains lay in bog land in the Irish Republic for almost 43 years before they were found earlier this year along with another man the IRA shot and secretly buried during the conflict.
IRA men Mr McKee, 17, and Seamus Wright, 25, both vanished in Belfast in October 1972.
The IRA shot them on the suspicion they were working as British agents.
Fr Michael Murtagh, former Rector of Clonard Monastery, told mourners who had packed into St Peter's Cathedral in West Belfast: "We are here to give Kevin McKee a Christian burial. This is happening 43 years late but it is still important that we do it.
"It is important for Kevin and for his family that they are given the chance to grieve publicly and acknowledge the awful tragedy his murder and secret burial was."
Funerals for both men - Mr Wright's will take place on Tuesday - were arranged after a summer-long wait for confirmation of DNA tests.
Their bodies were recovered from the same shallow grave on reclaimed bog land in Coghalstown, Co Meath, in June during a dig to find a third man killed and "Disappeared" by the IRA.
Mr McKee's disappearance took its toll on each family member, the priest said.
"We remind ourselves how this affected each of his family members, those living and those dead, especially his late mother Mary.
"We acknowledge 43 years of pain, of wondering, of uncertainty and not knowing what had happened.
"We acknowledge that at times there were very few to turn to and it was a lonely road for them to travel."
The hunt for the Disappeared has been overseen by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) - an independent body set up during the peace process to find 16 victims secretly buried by republicans.
The ICLVR was on site for several months this year searching for the remains of former Cistercian monk Joe Lynskey when the two other bodies were found.
It is also only a few miles from where the body of Brendan Megraw was discovered last year following searches at Oristown, Co Meath.
The searches for Mr Lynskey have to date been unsuccessful.
Fr Murtagh commended the process set up to locate the Disappeared.
He said: "It is part of our sometimes faltering peace process that is working."
Mr McKee will lie beside his mother at Blaris cemetery in Lisburn, Co Antrim.
**There are many who will find Cusack's story below entertaining. What I find equally amusing is Bobby Storey's urging of citizens to give any information concerning the 'criminal' killers of Davison and McGuigan to the PSNI although he himself intends to sue the PSNI for arresting HIM for questioning. (See this RTÉ story)
13 Sept 2015The Provisional IRA was about to appoint multiple murderer Gerard 'Jock' Davison as its so-called 'chief of staff' before he was shot dead in May, it has emerged.
Davison (48) is believed to have already held a place on the IRA's 'supreme' governing body, the 'Provisional Army Council' (PAC) and was the most senior figure in the Provos ever to have been shot dead.
Sources say he had been proposed as 'chief of staff' by a fellow Belfast member of the PAC and was awaiting elevation to the top spot when he was shot dead on May 5. No other 'Army Council' man had ever been killed before him.
Garda sources confirmed to the Sunday Independent that Jock Davison was 'there or thereabouts' at the top table of the Provisional IRA leadership when he was shot.
Ironically, it is also believed that Davison had been an agent for British security services who may also have been supporting his elevation to the top spot. This may have been part of a long-term plan to ensure that a figure like Davison would ensure the IRA kept to its ceasefire.Gerard 'Jock' Davison
In another twist, the PAC member who was said to have been promoting Davison as 'chief of staff' was also once suspected of being an agent working for British military intelligence. At one stage in the early 1990s, this man was being secretly filmed by an undercover RUC squad when he met his British Army handlers in a south Belfast park. During the meeting, the man was handed a briefcase stuffed with cash. A large IRA arms dump in west Belfast was seized shortly after.
Davison's role as a 'tout' was exposed in the immediate aftermath of the gruesome murder of innocent Belfast man Robert McCartney (33) in a Belfast city centre pub in January 2005. Davison ordered his men to butcher McCartney and his friend Brendan Devine following a drunken row, giving the order by running his forefinger across his throat and motioning towards the pair.
In the stabbing and beating frenzy outside the pub Davison slashed his own arm and went to the A&E at the Ulster Hospital in Dondald in east Belfast. There he was witnessed speaking to two men wearing suits and speaking in English accents.
Davison was never charged over the McCartney murder but continued his rise up the ranks of the Provisional IRA leadership. He was previously implicated in the murders of nine alleged Catholic drug dealers in Belfast but never played any significant role in fighting British forces in Northern Ireland.
Sources in Belfast say one of the reasons Kevin McGuigan decided, after years of simmering hatred, to murder Davison was because he had learned he was about to be elevated to the top job in the IRA. McGuigan had, it is said, referred openly to Davison as a 'tout'.
The Provisional Army Council, which officially doesn't exist any more, largely consists of Northern and specifically Belfast men. All are millionaires from 'dipping' into the organisation's massive criminal machine.
The Army Council members include:
The remaining chief of staff, a west Belfast man in his fifties who still occasionally lives in the back streets where he grew up but has several other houses and whose wife and children live openly ostentatious lifestyles.
An Armagh man once known as a dole cheat who is said to own a house on which up to €3m has been spent, paid for with money from diesel laundering, along with many other properties.
The Belfast man who was proposing Davison as 'chief of staff' and who still lives in a modest family home in west Belfast but is secretly wealthy.
Another Belfast man, a member of an IRA 'aristocracy' family, who once ran a multi-million euro illegal rubbish dumping business.
Two other Belfast men who were released from the Maze jail as part of the prisoner release deal after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
A prominent member of Sinn Fein from the Republic.
The claim that the former IRA gunman was shot by his ex-comrades has thrown Stormont into turmoil. But the manoeuvring is far from over
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
12 Sept 2015Bound, blindfolded and with a broken jaw, the terrified Territorial Army soldier must have thought he was about to die at the hands of the Provisional IRA in the republican north Belfast redoubt of Ardoyne.
It was 11 July 1986, the eve of “The Twelfth”, when Protestants celebrate King William’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne. But instead of ending up at one of the bonfires lit at midnight to mark loyalists’ and unionists’ most important day, the army reservist from the Protestant West Circular Road had strayed too close to Ardoyne and had been kidnapped by local republicans.
As the soldier awaited his fate in the early hours of the 12th, having sustained a savage beating at the hands of his two IRA captors, a pair of joggers approached the house, apparently on a morning run. Yet when the two men, dressed in tracksuits, stopped at a house in Holmdene Gardens, they turned to the door and kicked it in. Once inside, they drew their guns and went searching for the missing soldier. The reservist was about to be rescued by the SAS.
His two IRA guards bolted but were captured shortly afterwards in a joint army-police operation after hiding in the loft of a house in the street behind. The IRA men were veterans of the Provisionals: one was the late Martin Meehan, a street fighter famed for prison escapes and gun battles with the British army. The younger man, still in his 20s, was Kevin McGuigan, whose death in August this year has brought the power-sharing process in Northern Ireland to the brink of collapse.
It is this killing, which the police say was carried out with the involvement of the Provisional IRA, that has plunged the province into its worst crisis for a decade, raising the critical question: is the IRA still a functioning and deadly force?
For kidnapping the TA soldier, Meehan and McGuigan were sent to the Maze maximum security prison outside Belfast, where they joined their imprisoned IRA comrades in the H-Blocks. When both were eventually released in the early 1990s, Meehan moved into politics, eventually becoming a Sinn Féin councillor. The republican movement, however, had a different role for McGuigan to play: he would become one of their most feared and ruthless assassins.Martin Meehan in 1975
When the IRA declared its ceasefire on 31 August 1994, the organisation remained on a war footing. To keep its footsoldiers busy and the fighting machine oiled, the organisation spent most of the early part of 1995 gathering intelligence on a new generation of criminals who were amassing fortunes selling drugs in Catholic working-class areas of Northern Ireland.
Operating under a flag of convenience – a campaign group called Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD) – the IRA selected McGuigan for an assassination unit that would target alleged drug dealers in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland. Another even younger activist who was being groomed to become Belfast IRA commander – and ultimately, perhaps, the organisation’s overall chief of staff – was drafted in to run the DAAD murder campaign. His name was Gerard “Jock” Davison.
DAAD’s offensive began in April 2005 when they shot dead drug dealer Mickey Mooney in a downtown Belfast pub. Between 1995 and 2001 the group killed up to a dozen men. Security sources have told the Observer they are “absolutely certain” that McGuigan killed at least one of the victims of this vigilante campaign – Brendan “Speedy” Fegan in May 1999.
The death of Fegan, at a bar in Newry close to the border with the Irish Republic, demonstrated McGuigan’s prowess as a murderer. As he entered the Hermitage Bar in Newry city centre, McGuigan, wearing a wig and fake moustache, fired a number of shots into the roof of the pub, causing panic and chaos. McGuigan singled out the 24-year-old drug dealer, shooting Fegan about 16 times.Kevin McGuigan
The unit of McGuigan and Davison became an object of fear among the IRA’s many enemies, and its activities led to the latter’s promotion to head the Provisionals’ Belfast Brigade. Yet in a world of volatility, suspicion and daily violence, the fellow IRA killers would eventually fall out.
Both men had grown up in the Market area of central Belfast but spent a lot of their adult life just across the river in the Short Strand area – a Catholic district bordered on three sides by the mainly loyalist east of the city. Although a family man and a passionate follower of Gaelic sports, McGuigan’s volatile nature meant that even neighbourly disputes could end in violence. One such attack on a veteran republican family resulted in the IRA’s internal discipline unit being called in.
McGuigan was sentenced to a “six pack”, which, translated from Belfast street parlance, means gunshot wounds to the feet, knees, hands and elbows. McGuigan was bitter for years and believed one man was to blame for his punishment – Davison.
One former comrade from the time they were in the H-Blocks together was the IRA prisoner turned author and critic of Sinn Féin, Anthony McIntyre. McIntyre, who visited McGuigan in hospital after the six-pack shooting, recalled: “He was an ‘army man’ who believed strongly in the office of the leadership. I think his deep sense of loyalty to the army led him to resent Jock, who he felt hijacked the army and punished him for reasons that were unfair – the result of favouritism and personalities.”
For a decade, McGuigan nursed a dark grudge, which the IRA in Belfast now believe led him to kill Davison on a rainy Tuesday morning in May. The description of the gunman fitted McGuigan’s profile: diminutive, wiry, fit and professionally covered-up.
In the weeks and months following Davison’s murder, the 53-year-old father of nine issued statements through his solicitor denying any role in the killing. Over the summer McGuigan was warned three times by the Police Service of Northern Ireland that his life was danger, but he chose to remain in the Short Strand with his wife, Dolores.Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison
While the police appeared to be making no progress over the murder, Davison’s closest comrades were holding their own secret inquiry. They set up a unit that carried out interrogations and put a surveillance squad on McGuigan. Inside the Belfast IRA, meanwhile, debate raged over whether to strike back at whoever killed Davison, with some close to the Sinn Féin leadership fearing that bringing IRA footsoldiers back onto the streets would create a huge political crisis.
According to sources close to senior republicans, what swung that debate over to the side of those urging a brutal response was the surveillance team. They reported first to a one-time Belfast Brigade commander that they had seen McGuigan at Davison’s home. This IRA veteran, who once directed the Provisionals’ bombing campaign in Belfast and was close to Davison, then persuaded other senior republican figures to act – or they might be next.
Around 9pm on 12 August, as McGuigan was pulling up in his car with his wife at their home in Comber Court, two men clad in dark clothing ambushed him. They wounded him with a volley of shots and, as he tried to escape, killed him on the ground in front of his wife.
Ed Moloney, a veteran IRA-watcher and world authority on the Provisionals, is in no doubt that the leadership gave the go-ahead for the killing. “If this had been a genuinely freelance action, it would have been met with a ferocious response from the IRA against those responsible, and we haven’t seen that at all,” he said. “The unauthorised use of weapons, especially in a politically controversial killing, would merit a court-martial and a death sentence. In practice, nothing happens in the IRA without the approval and knowledge of the IRA’s military and political leadership.”
The Democratic Unionist party has threatened to pull down Northern Ireland’s coalition due to the alleged role of the IRA in McGuigan’s death. But Gary Donnelly, a former prisoner and Independent Republican councillor in Derry, said he didn’t believe unionists really cared about an ex-IRA gunman who, if ordered to do so during the Troubles, would have assassinated any unionist politician."I have no doubt Stormont will be back soon and will continue to yield a political dividend for the British government". --Gary Donnelly, republican councillor
“Bodies in the street and high-profile arrests are optics to deflect the electorate from substantive political issues. I have no doubt Stormont will be back soon and will continue to yield a political dividend for the British government,” Donnelly said.
Northern Ireland is unlikely to return to the sort of society it was back in 1986. The community from which McGuigan emerged doesn’t want to go back to war. While power sharing remains in peril, there will be no return to the 24/7 conflict of the Troubles past. Yet the murder of the former IRA gunman illustrates how that past continues to haunt the politics of the present.
Republican sceptics might be correct in suspecting unionists are using the killing to crash the current power sharing arrangement and, after elections later in the autumn, restore devolution on a basis that is more favourable to them. But past grudges, bad blood and one-sided folk memories of the Troubles still pollute the atmosphere in the region – not only at the parliament on the hill at Stormont but far beyond, in the old war zones where the conflict once raged.
Suzanne BreenBelfast Telegraph
3 Sept 2015An American gunrunner is set to be flown to Northern Ireland to give evidence in court against a senior Sinn Fein strategist, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
In what would be one of the most high-profile trials in years, Florida stockbroker turned gunrunner Mike Logan has agreed to testify against Sean "Spike" Murray, once a prominent IRA member, in Belfast Crown Court.
Logan claims he sent Murray hundreds of weapons during his five-year gunrunning career which began after the IRA ceasefire and continued following the Good Friday Agreement.
Murray is one of Sinn Fein's most senior officials in Belfast. Less that a fortnight ago, he was a member of the party delegation which met the Chief Constable at PSNI headquarters to deny IRA involvement in the murder of Kevin McGuigan and to insist the IRA no longer existed.Mike Logan will give evidence against a one-time prominent IRA member in court
The deadly cache of weapons that Logan sent the Provos included around 200 handguns which were used in several murders including the killing of two police officers in Lurgan in 1997.
Spike Murray has continually denied any involvement in the gun-smuggling plot, describing the allegations as "without foundation".
But Logan (56) claims he worked for the IRA, reporting directly to Murray, who has served seven years in the H-Blocks for explosive offences and is a regular visitor to Sinn Fein offices in Stormont.
The Belfast Telegraph can exclusively reveal that a high-powered PSNI delegation travelled to the US last month to ask Logan to give evidence against Murray. They included Det Chief Supt Tim Hanley, Head of Serious Crime Branch.
The detectives held a three-hour meeting with Logan in a Florida Hotel. His lawyer spoke to them on the phone in advance to ensure he had immunity from prosecution.
Logan initially refused to co-operate with the PSNI. However, they remained in regular contact with him. Logan changed his mind a fortnight ago and told the police he was willing to help the investigation and to give evidence against Murray.
Three detectives and a PSNI camera operator are due to meet Logan in Florida in early October to formally interview him and record his evidence on video.
Sources say that if a prosecution case is successfully constructed, detectives have told Logan he will be flown to Belfast for the trial and housed in secure accommodation. He has been promised "total protection" in court and when travelling to and from court.Sean 'Spike' Murray
When asked about the dramatic new developments in the case, a PSNI spokesman would only say: "Inquiries are continuing. This remains a live investigation and as such we can't comment."
Apart from sending the weapons used to murder Constables John Graham and David Johnston in Lurgan in 1997, another gun Logan sent the IRA was used to kill Real IRA Belfast commander Joe O'Connor three years later.
Logan believes a third was used in the IRA's attempted murder in England of former Special Branch agent Martin McGartland in 1999.
McGartland was shot six times outside his home in Whitley Bay. His life was saved by neighbours using cling film to stop the blood flow from his wound.
Two months later, the Czech-made Luger pistol used in the attack was found in undergrowth along the River Tyne. McGartland claims there has been "a massive cover-up" about the gun's origins as the authorities want to avoid blaming the IRA for the attack.
Logan was first interviewed in April last year in a BBC Spotlight programme which suggested that the British authorities, at the highest level, knew the full details of Spike Murray's involvement in the arms' importation but turned a blind eye in order to protect the peace process.
The day after the programme, the DUP met the PSNI to raise concerns and, hours later, it was announced police were investigating the Florida gunrunning operation.
Until our revelations today, details of that investigation had remained secret.
Logan was given immunity from prosecution by the US authorities in 2002 in return for giving them information about the weapons he had bought for the IRA.
Suspected remains of former monk and one other unearthed on land that was believed to be secret burial place of IRA victims who went missing in 1972
Press AssociationThe Guardian
25 June 2015**Please see also this article by Ed Moloney at The Broken Elbow for further insight: Have The Remains Of Seamus Wright And Kevin McKee Been Found In Co. Meath Bog?The scene in Coghalstown where human remains have been found on reclaimed bogland. (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA)The remains of two bodies have been found on reclaimed bogland in the Irish Republic where three of the so-called IRA Disappeared are believed to have been secretly buried.
A dig on the farmland in Coghalstown, Co Meath, as part of the search for the remains of former monk Joe Lynskey unearthed one body on Thursday morning, the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) said.
A second body was discovered as further examinations took place at the site and preparations were made to take the first body out the ground.
IRA victims Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee are believed to be buried in the same area, the ICLVR said.
“We have always said that we think three bodies are in that area and until there is further identification we just don’t know,” a spokesman said.
It is understood the second set of human remains was unearthed as specialists cleared ground around the first body to prepare it for removal.
Lynskey’s family, who have endured a 43-year wait to give their loved one a proper burial, were notified of the initial discovery and were said to be shocked but relieved at the discovery.
The former Cistercian monk was abducted and murdered by the IRA in August 1972. The group only admitted his disappearance in 2010. Wright, another of the Disappeared believed to be dumped in the bogland, was also from Belfast.Joe Lynskey, a former monk who was executed and secretly buried by the IRA. (Photograph: Wave Trauma Centre/PA)
He was in the IRA and was murdered in the same year by his former colleagues, who accused him of being a British army agent and a member of its Military Reaction Force – an undercover unit.
Wright was married and 25 years old when he went missing in October 1972. He worked as an asphalt layer. McKee, again from Belfast, and in the IRA, he was also murdered in the same year.
He was also suspected of being in the British army agent and the Military Reaction Force. He was interrogated and murdered by the terror group.
Lynskey’s niece, Maria, had been expected to visit the site after the discovery and said her thoughts were with other families awaiting news.
“We would like to thank the [ICLVR] and those who have engaged with the commission in the search for Joe,” she said.
“Our thoughts are with the other families whose loved ones remain disappeared.”
Extensive searches have been carried out at the site for both Wright and McKee, but this year was the first dig for Lynskey’s remains.
17 June 2015Philip McMurray is taking legal action against the Chief Constable, the secretary of state, the Ministry of Defence and an IRA informer The husband of an RUC officer murdered by the IRA is to take legal action over his wife's death.
Philip McMurray believes it is the only course of action he can take, after a BBC Panorama programme highlighted allegations of collusion in the attack on his wife's patrol vehicle.Colleen McMurray was killed by an IRA mortar bomb
Constable Colleen McMurray, 34, was killed when a mortar bomb exploded in Newry, County Down, in 1992. A colleague lost his legs in the attack.
Mr McMurray was also an RUC officer at the time. The couple had been married for 18 months.
He is taking action against the Chief Constable, the secretary of state, the Ministry of Defence and an IRA informer.
Peter Keeley, allegedly an undercover agent in the IRA, told the programme that he had helped design the technology that fired the rocket remotely.
He said he had passed that information onto his handlers and also told them the IRA was planning an attack.Peter Keeley
The programme shown in May, examined the extent of security force collusion with paramilitary agents during decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said that since the introduction of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA) Act 2000, the conduct of covert operations by UK security forces is heavily regulated and scrutinised.
Relatives believe victims sacrificed to preserve position of British army agent Stakeknife
Owen BowcottThe Guardian
1 June 2015**Photos and links onsiteRelatives of people “executed” by the IRA for allegedly betraying the republican movement by acting as informers have begun legal action to discover the truth, as they prepare to tell their harrowing stories to an official investigation into at least 20 murders stretching back to the 1980s.
The revelation in April that Northern Ireland’s police ombudsman is conducting an investigation into whether the murders could have been prevented has triggered legal claims against the Ministry of Defence and the man identified as the army’s highest ranking agent in the IRA.Detail of a mural on the corner of Falls Road, west Belfast, with an IRA warning for informers, in 1985. (Photograph: Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
At the heart of the tortuous history of double-crossing is Freddie Scappaticci, known as Stakeknife, who fled Belfast after being unmasked as a senior IRA commander during a terrorist trial in 1991. Scappaticci was later identified as an agent for British military intelligence, but has consistently denied being Stakeknife.
For decades, the victims’ families – smeared by accusations of disloyalty and reluctant even after the end of the Troubles to talk to the police – were left alone with their grief and disbelief.
That their relatives may have been sacrificed to protect the army’s most productive agent – Stakeknife – inside the IRA’s Internal Security Unit, or “nutting squad”, has begun to emerge only recently.
The ombudsman’s office is investigating about 300 cases of alleged collusion. The key issue is whether double agents within the IRA were permitted to commit crimes – even murder – in order to gain the trust of paramilitary organisations or sacrifice IRA members to protect their own position.
Among the victims were:
• Joseph Mulhern, whose bullet-pierced body was discovered in a ditch beside a remote border crossing in County Tyrone. The IRA volunteer’s hands had been tied with wire. Three weeks later, in July 1993, his father was handed a tape of the 22-year-old supposedly confessing to informing on IRA activities.
• Caroline Moreland, 34, a single mother of three, was last seen alive ironing in her kitchen. Six weeks before the IRA announced its 1994 ceasefire, she was abducted, tortured and shot dead in County Fermanagh. The family received a recording in which she admitted betraying the location of a hidden IRA rifle.
• Paddy Trainor, 29, disappeared from a drinking club in February 1981. He was blindfolded before being shot in the back of the head; his body was marked by cigarette burns. His sister could not bear to listen to the cassette tape.
Weeks after burying his son, Frank Mulhern said, Scappaticci came up to him. “He shook my hand and asked how things were,” Mulhern said. “He was asking if anyone was giving me hassle.
“I knew he was with the nutting squad. He told me he had been up [in Donegal] where my son was being held. When he got there [Joseph] was only wearing a cross and chain – no clothes. He said my son looked really tired and ordered he be given a wash, a shave and something to wear.Freddie Scappaticci - 'Stakeknife'
“Scappaticci knew about the two bullet wounds – to my son’s neck and head. I felt sick. Scap could have had me taken out and shot me if I did anything. He was a very powerful figure. If you were in the IRA and Scap was looking at you, your knees turned to water.”
The voice on the tape handed to the Mulhern family alternates between anxiety and resignation. Such recordings were meant to prove treachery but Joseph Mulhern’s statement was reminiscent of newsreel clips of a Stalinist show trial. In the confession, clearly extracted under duress, the young man introduces himself in a hesitant voice: “I’m a volunteer. My name is Joseph Mulhern. I’ve been working for the Special Branch this past three years.”
The tape stops and restarts several times. It ends in what sounds like a scripted plea: “I bitterly regret this past three years. I would urge anyone in this same predicament to come forward as there is no other way out.”
His father dismisses the recantation as fictitious. “I did not believe it,” Frank Mulhern said. “A few weeks earlier, Scappaticci had called around to see my son and had taken him to places where there were arms and explosives. The army later seized them.
“The IRA launched an investigation. The last two people to see the weapons had been Scap and my son. Obviously Scap did not fall under suspicion but my son did. His comrades in the IRA didn’t believe it. They all turned up for his funeral.” Some people nevertheless called his son a “tout” – slang for an informer.
Even after Stakeknife was exposed, the republican movement made no public apology. “The IRA will never admit anything,” Mulhern said. “They are like the British army; they are never wrong.”
He believes that, with an agent inside the IRA’s counter-intelligence unit, his son’s life could have been saved. “[Joseph] was held for two weeks, across the border. Why didn’t the handlers notify the Garda Síochána? They could have saved others’ lives, too. British intelligence was that far into the IRA, you wouldn’t know who was working for them.”
As evidence emerges, the scale of the security forces’ penetration of the province’s paramilitary organisations grows ever more astonishing. One informed source has estimated that by the end of the Troubles as many as 90% of loyalist and 50% of republican active paramilitaries had been recruited as informants.
The most thorough investigation into collusion, the De Silva report into the loyalist killing of the Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, published in December 2012, described agent-handling guidelines for the army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) – which controlled Stakeknife – as “contradictory”.
MI5, Special Branch and the FRU operated separate regimes, Sir Desmond de Silva said. “Agent-handlers and their superiors were expected to gather intelligence without clear guidance as to the extent to which their agents could become involved in criminal activity,” he concluded. “Intelligence officers were … asked to perform a task that, in some cases, could not be achieved effectively in ways that were lawful.”
Scappaticci was allegedly not the only agent operating inside the provisional IRA’s security department. Other names have surfaced. An informer who survived an IRA execution squad, Martin McGartland, has alleged two of the guards who held him were also from “a protected species”.
Kevin Winters, at the Belfast firm KRW Law, which is coordinating relatives’ compensation claims against Scappaticci and the Ministry of Defence, suspects the absence of a legal framework was deliberate. “De Silva confirmed that collusion as a state practice did exist,” he explained. “It showed there was no oversight, no protocols and the cynical view was that that allowed agents to thrive.
“By killing people at a low level in the organisation, they were ingratiating themselves into the paramilitary structure. The families of those shot dead as informers felt they were beyond victim status because of the stigma attached to the deaths. That has now changed.”
Shauna Moreland, 30, last saw her mother ironing in the family’s kitchen in west Belfast. “My mother had trained as a nurse so if anybody [in the IRA] was injured and couldn’t go to hospital, they would be brought to her,” Shauna recalled.
“I said ‘cheerio’. She gave me a hug and a kiss. I went off to my grandmother. She said ‘See you tomorrow’. She was missing for 15 days. They tortured her. I was first told it was a case of mistaken identity. I never felt the stigma because I was too young. Years later I found letters from IRA men in prison sending condolences; they knew it was an injustice.
“I want answers. I’ve listened to the tape they sent. It keeps stopping and starting. I don’t believe she did it. Why didn’t the police go and free her? [Stakeknife’s] handlers must have known. MI5 made the bullets and the IRA fired them. She was a sacrificial lamb.”
Her older brother, Marc Moreland, 34, understood more at the time. “I was heartbroken,” he remembers. “It was born into us that we were republicans. You hated the army, you hated Protestants, you hated the Brits. The IRA was meant to be on your side; they were meant to protect you.
“I went round to the house of a local IRA man after my mother was killed. He had steel security gates at the bottom of his stairs. I must have been 14 or 15. He wouldn’t come out but his son, who was 18, did. I [hit] him. The next day, four or five guys in balaclavas came round and told me to get out of the area.”
Eileen Hughes, 68, remembers snow falling the day the body of her brother, Paddy Trainor, was found. “My mother was in hysterics,” she said. “Another brother went to identify him. He said [Paddy] was covered in cigarette burns.
“He was shot to cover up for someone else. My brother listened to the tape. It was Paddy’s voice but we didn’t believe it. They accused him of being an informer. He had been lifted a few times by the police and may have got the price of a drink off them but he was not an informer.”
Hughes’s son, Tony Kane, was shot dead in 1995 by a republican group linked to the IRA, supposedly for drug dealing. She had been summoned to a meeting some time before at which, she said, Scappaticci told her: “The next complaint I get about your son, I will put one in his head.” She added: “I would like to see Scappaticci charged. I used to know him; my best friend used to go out with him. His father sold ice-creams around the area. I blame the police and the government. They knew these kids were getting shot to cover for [Stakeknife].”
The MoD declined to comment on the allegations. Lawyers for Scappaticci did not respond to requests for comment. Scappaticci’s whereabouts is unknown.
The dead have a habit of haunting Northern Irish politics. “If a truth and reconciliation process had been delivered years ago,” said Winters, “we wouldn’t have all this civil litigation. If the government had said: ‘Yes, we saved lives, but we got things wrong as well … ’ It’s the blanket denial that’s the problem. The families just want to know what happened.”
• Mother of teenager killed in IRA bombing demands apology from murderer
• Paul Maxwell was a crew member on Mountbatten's Shadow V when killed
• Request from Mary Hornsey comes ahead of Prince Charles's visit to site**Please use the SITE SEARCH in the links to your right and type in 'Paul Maxwell' to see many more articles on this tragedy.
By Nicola ByrneDaily Mail
16 May 2015The mother of a teenage boy who died in the IRA bombing that killed Lord Mountbatten has asked his murderer to apologise for ‘the slaughter of children’ just days before Prince Charles’s visit to the site of the attack.
Paul Maxwell, a member of the crew on Mountbatten’s boat Shadow V, was 15 when he died in the 1979 attack. The other victims were Mountbatten’s 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull and the Dowager Lady Brabourne, who was 83.
Mountbatten’s daughter Lady Brabourne and her husband Lord Brabourne were both injured but survived the blast, as did their son Timothy, Nicholas’s twin brother.
Bomb-maker Thomas McMahon is the only person to have been convicted for the attack, which happened after the boat party had set off from the fishing village of Mullaghmore in Donegal Bay.
McMahon served 18 years before being released in 1998 under the Good Friday peace agreement.Paul Maxwell (left) was 15 when he died in the IRA bomb explosion
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday
from her home outside Belfast, Paul’s mother, Mary Hornsey, said: ‘I would like him to apologise. I feel that if he has a conscience, he must have a great deal on his conscience because he killed two innocent boys.
‘What cause is great enough to warrant the slaughter of innocent children? It’s hard to know what is in Mr McMahon’s heart. If he were to lose one of his own children in such a sudden barbaric way, then maybe he would realise what an awful, heinous act he committed in taking my son from me.
‘I would like to ask him why he murdered my son – what purpose did it serve?’
At the time, Mrs Hornsey’s family lived in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland but had a summer house in Mullaghmore, where her son worked as a deckhand for Mountbatten.
She says Paul was a kind and gentle boy with friends from both sides of the religious divide in Northern Ireland.
Although Charles’s visit comes 36 years after the bombing, it is believed he has wanted to visit Mullaghmore for some time. He and the Duchess of Cornwall will arrive on Tuesday when they fly to Galway for a reception at the city’s university to celebrate the area’s links with Britain. Later they will be at a private dinner hosted by the Irish president, Michael D. Higgins, in Lough Cutra Castle in South Galway.
On Wednesday they will attend a service of peace and reconciliation at Drumcliffe church in Sligo.Mary Hornsey (right) and Donna Maxwell (left), the mother and sister of Paul Maxwell pictured at his funeral
Welcoming the Prince’s visit, Mrs Hornsey said: ‘He is extending the hand of friendship and showing a great deal of trust. I commend him.’ McMahon, who lives with his wife in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, works as a carpenter. He has ignored two requests from Paul Maxwell’s father, John, to meet.
Yesterday Mr Maxwell extended the invitation again, saying: ‘I’ve been asked do I forgive him? A lot depends on what he would say to me if I met him, which I would still consider doing.’
He added: ‘The Royal visit brings hope for the future.’
The Mail on Sunday tried to interview Mr McMahon last week. As he was leaving a hardware shop in Carrickmacross, our reporter asked him whether he had any regrets about the 1979 bombing.
He replied, ‘Good for you’ and walked back towards his car. He refused to comment on the Prince’s visit, before driving off at speed.Bomb-maker Thomas McMahon (right) is the only person to have been convicted for the attack
A massive security operation is under way in preparation for the Prince’s arrival, as reported in The Mail on Sunday last week.
On Thursday, Irish police revealed they had foiled a suspected Real IRA bomb plot that could have led to explosives being planted near an Army base north of the border.
Charles enjoyed a close relationship with Lord Mountbatten, his great-uncle, whom he looked upon as a father figure and mentor.
It emerged yesterday that MI5 believed the IRA planned to shoot down the Navy helicopter carrying Mountbatten’s body back from Ireland after the bombing.
One of the helicopter’s crewmen revealed that they were warned of such a plot. Colin Douglas, who was a lieutenant in the Fleet Air Arm, said: ‘The Security Service threat assessment for our task that day [was] “likely to come under attack.” ’
In March 1979, an Army helicopter was nearly downed by the IRA when it came under heavy machine-gun fire in South Armagh.Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma his two son-in-laws , grandchildren and Paul Maxwell returning from fishing at Mullaghmore, County Sligo
Detectives investigating shooting of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison in central Belfast detain 41-year-old man
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
6 May 2015Police in Northern Ireland have arrested a 41-year-old man in connection with the murder of former IRA commander Gerard ”Jock” Davison.
The man was detained in Belfast on Wednesday morning. Police also searched a flat in the north of the city on Tuesday night in connection with the killing.
Within hours of the fatal shooting in the Markets area of central Belfast, detectives ruled out involvement of hardline anti-peace process republican organisation or loyalist paramilitaries.Murder scene of Gerard ”Jock” Davison
The murder took place at the corner of Welsh Street and Upper Stanfield Street, close to an office where Davison was employed as a community worker.
Local people reported children screaming, with one shouting: “Daddy, Daddy” when the gunman fired at the ex-IRA activist. The gunman, who witnesses said was wearing a hooded jacket that concealed his face, escaped by running up an alleyway.
Shortly after the shooting several senior republicans from across Belfast visited the inner-city area to support Davison’s family and friends.
Davison is the most senior pro-peace process republican to have been killed since the IRA ceasefire of 1997. Security sources said it was unlikely that any Ulster loyalist group was behind the murders, adding that the killer may have come from the nationalist community and possibly had a longstanding grudge against the victim.
The investigating officer, DCI Justyn Galloway, issued a fresh appeal on Wednesday for information about the killing. “This was a cold-blooded murder carried out in broad daylight in a residential area and it has no place in the new Northern Ireland. The suspect was detained in Belfast this morning and is being questioned at a police station in the city. A property in north Belfast was searched last night as part of the overall investigation,” he said.
“I would again appeal to people who were in the Welsh Street area at 9am yesterday, and who have information about the shooting, to talk to detectives at Musgrave police station.”
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK
5 May 2015
**Please see this search page to find results for past stories about Robert McCartney on this journal: GOOGLE SITE SEARCHGerard "Jock" Davison was shot several times on Tuesday morning (Pacemaker)A central Irish Republican Army figure in one of the outlawed group's most notorious killings has been shot to death in Belfast, residents and police said Tuesday.
No group claimed responsibility for shooting Gerard "Jock" Davison at short range outside his home in the Markets neighborhood of south-central Belfast.
Davison was a Belfast IRA commander when he allegedly ordered IRA comrades in 2005 to attack a man, Robert McCartney. McCartney's widow and four sisters took their demands for justice all the way to the White House, and their embarrassing campaign helped spur the IRA to renounce violence and disarm later that year.
Davison was arrested on suspicion of ordering the killing but not charged. Two others, including his uncle Terence Davison, were charged with McCartney's murder but acquitted in 2008.
McCartney's sisters accused Gerard Davison of making a throat-slashing gesture to his IRA colleagues in the crowded pub shortly before McCartney, 33, was fatally stabbed outside the pub. IRA members confiscated the pub's surveillance video footage, cleaned up the forensic evidence and ordered pub-goers to tell police nothing or risk IRA retaliation, according to police and court testimony.
IRA representatives met McCartney's widow and sisters and offered to have the IRA members responsible killed as punishment, an offer they rejected. The IRA and its allied Sinn Fein party later announced they had expelled three IRA members and eight Sinn Fein members over their alleged role in the assault on McCartney and the evidence cover-up.
Davison's body lay in the street Tuesday outside his home until police covered it with a sheet, then constructed a tent around the scene of the killing to preserve forensic evidence.
Most IRA members are observing a 1997 cease-fire in support of Northern Ireland's peace process. But splinter groups continue to mount bombings and shootings and feuds within their fractured ranks can turn deadly.
In Northern Ireland's last fatal shooting, a former Belfast commander of a faction called the Continuity IRA was killed in April 2014 in Catholic west Belfast.
24 March 2015A veteran former IRA man has said it is “shameful” for republicans to still defend the murder of Jean McConville.
Brendan Curran, who was Sinn Fein’s first councillor in Newry in 1985, said that the party needs to “honourably” accept that it “got things wrong”.
Mr Curran quit Sinn Fein a year and a half ago and last week he resigned from the council with a heated speech in which he claimed that there was a “Stakeknife-like” figure within Newry Sinn Fein, a reference to the notorious IRA informer from Belfast.
In his speech, Mr Curran alleged that he had warned the party of a paedophile priest (who is now dead) who was abusing children on a large scale, but he was told to stop talking about the issue.
Yesterday Mr Curran told local radio station Q Radio: “I know things have happened in the past which were bad, and things which maybe we all took part in and that was the way it was. But you know what? Now is not the time to call people like Jean McConville an executed tout. And nobody – particularly republicans – can stand by a remark like that.
“I’m simply highlighting something which is common currency in Patrick Street in Newry. Executed touts? Shameful. What happened to that woman was shameful.
“And I realise that it happened, I realise, in the whole darkness of the war. But you see now that we’re standing back and the smoke has cleared, we should be able to honourably turn round and say ‘You know what? Sometimes we got things wrong’.”