Saturday 1 October 2016

Sinn Fein border poll a stunt, says ex-IRA man

Published 26/06/2016 | 02:30

Kieran Conway, who was the IRA's director of intelligence in the 1970s and 1980s and served a three-year jail term, yesterday repeated his sentiment that his former IRA associates and now Sinn Fein leaders would 'say anything to get into power'.
Kieran Conway, who was the IRA's director of intelligence in the 1970s and 1980s and served a three-year jail term, yesterday repeated his sentiment that his former IRA associates and now Sinn Fein leaders would 'say anything to get into power'.

A former senior Provisional IRA figure has said Sinn Fein's call for a border referendum is a "stunt", with no prospect of Irish unity emerging from Brexit.

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Kieran Conway, who was the IRA's director of intelligence in the 1970s and 1980s and served a three-year jail term, yesterday repeated his sentiment that his former IRA associates and now Sinn Fein leaders would "say anything to get into power".

Conway, a solicitor who mainly represents clients before the Special Criminal Court, has previously referred to Gerry Adams as a "mendacious, lying bastard" and accused him of "selling out republican goals and implementing British rule".

He said yesterday: "Calling for a referendum is a bit of a stunt. It's not going to happen. I don't know the actual technicalities, but I think there must be a majority of people in the six counties voting for Irish unity.

"There is no prospect of Irish unity. They [Sinn Fein] are calling for a referendum and there is no chance of it being granted by [British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland] Theresa Villiers."

Mr Conway, who returned to his legal studies after almost two decades in the IRA, is currently pushing for what he says is a much-needed reform in the application of the "right to silence" provisions under criminal law in the Republic.

He said he is "probably in a minority of one among lawyers" in thinking that "suspects in custody should be required to answer the legitimate questions of investigators or suffer the consequences".

He said: "At present, gardai, solicitors and suspects go through the charade of repeated interviews in which the suspect, on legal advice - including mine - respond 'no comment' to questions put.

"There is a wider provision in Section 2 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1998, which requires suspects to answer 'material questions' put to them by investigators, again subject to adverse inferences being drawn should they fail to do so.

"However, it can only be deployed when the suspect is detained under that Act, typically for IRA-related offences. It would be a relatively simple matter for this provision to be extended to the rest of the criminal law, and would provide investigators with a useful evidential tool.

"It should be done and it should apply from the outset of a detention under any of the existing powers."

Mr Conway was questioned by gardai in January following the re-opening of the West Midlands Police investigation of the November 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings in which 21 people were killed and 200 injured.

Six Irishmen were wrongly convicted of the mass murder. Mr Conway said he told gardai of his "personal shame and regret over the bombings".

Following the IRA ceasefire in 1997 and the Good Friday Agreement the following year, Sinn Fein promised its supporters there would be a united Ireland by 2016.

The Sinn Fein call for an Irish unity referendum in the wake of the Brexit vote has also been dismissed jokingly by other former Provisional republicans in the North as Plan B, following what is seen as the failure of its promise to its supporters to achieve reunification via its "constitutional" path.

Sunday Independent

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