Two decades after this killing, Sinn Féin's leader is still sitting in Dáil Éireann keeping schtum
Published 07/06/2016 | 02:30
By 5.40am on June 7, 1996 Detective Garda Jerry McCabe had finished shaving at his modest home near Thomond Park in Limerick.
Dapper in a neatly pressed brown suit, he was all set for duty and looked, "as if he was heading off to see the bank manager to ask for a loan".
Jerry and his devoted wife Ann were over 30 years married. A talented mechanic, Jerry was planning to start a business after retiring from the force.
As he slipped away Jerry whispered to Ann that he'd be home for a cup of tea by mid-morning after a routine Post Office escort to Adare.
Jerry never made it home. Ann would never see Jerry alive again. Some of the men involved in his murder have never faced justice and the political leadership of the party that supported his IRA killers still decline to answer questions about their knowledge of the crime and the cover up that followed it.
Just like the ghost of Jean McConville, the bloodied shirt of Jerry McCabe has cast a long shadow over the credibility of the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and raised profound concerns about that party's commitment to democracy and the rule of law.
Twenty years ago today, the war launched by the Provisional IRA against the Irish people came to the historic village of Adare in Co Limerick.
A unit of the Munster Brigade led by Kevin Walsh and terrorist Pearse McAuley stormed up Main Street in a stolen Nissan Pajero and rammed the unmarked Garda patrol car guarding the delivery of cash to the local post office. This unit had serious form. Ringleader Kevin Walsh had robbed banks and post offices for the IRA for 20 years. He had convictions going back to the mid 1970s. A close associate of his during all this time was Martin Ferris, now the Sinn Féin TD for Kerry.
By the summer of 1996 Ferris was free after serving 10 years for the failed bid to import weapons courtesy of the infamous Boston gangster Whitey Bulger.
In June 1996 the IRA had resumed its war and Walsh's gang was mobilised to rob and kill again for Ireland's "freedom".
Jerry McCabe and his lifelong partner Ben O'Sullivan stood in their way that morning 20 years ago. They were shot at point-blank range by a gunman who unleashed 15 rounds from a Kalashnikov assault rifle. This same weapon had been discharged in previous IRA raids at Kilmallock and Mill Street. Jerry died instantly, Ben suffered multiple gunshot wounds but miraculously survived.
Walsh's gang then menaced the post office driver Willie Jackson but were unable to access the £IR100,000 locked in the truck and abandoned the operation.
For months McAuley and Walsh were on the run. For months they benefited from a network of Provo safe houses. When Walsh was tracked down to a house in Mullagh, Co Cavan, in 1998, he had a false passport and was armed to the teeth.
The killers' trial in 1999 was notable for the scale of witness intimidation that threatened to collapse the case. Then, with freedom beckoning, the accused strangely pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sent down. When they were released Martin Ferris was there to greet them.
Sinn Féin and the IRA at first denied any Provo role, but soon retreated to the position the movement publicly holds today. "The operation was authorised at a lower level", Gerry Adams subsequently admitted on 'The Late Late Show'.
Ten years ago I made a film with Ann McCabe. She challenged Adams about that statement. "Can you tell me who the lower level was?" she asked.
Adams declined to share his knowledge of the people behind the murder. Twenty years ago the political wing of the Provisional IRA had no TDs in Dáil Éireann. Support for Sinn Féin was minuscule. Today Sinn Féin, the champions of Jerry McCabe's murderers, have 23 seats and the backing of one voter in every seven in this republic. The Garda inquiry into the murder is still open. Dickie O'Neill, Gerry Roche, and Paul Damery are three Republicans detectives still want to talk to. They haven't been home since June 1996. But "the man who knows so much", as Ann McCabe describes Gerry Adams, and who could help that investigation the most, is sitting in Dáil Éireann keeping schtum.
Gerry Gregg is the Producer of the 2006 film 'Murder on Main Street' made for RTÉ and the Irish Film Board to mark the 10th anniversary of the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe