Saturday 20 October 2018

Kehoe: It took me 26 years to rebuild my reputation after shootout

Nicky Kehoe arrives at the Four Courts in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts
Nicky Kehoe arrives at the Four Courts in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

Sinn Féin political manager Nicky Kehoe said his arrest during a shootout with gardaí, in a foiled kidnap attempt of multi-millionaire Galen Weston, had to be seen "in the historical context" of the time.

Mr Kehoe (62) told the High Court he had spent 26 years rebuilding his reputation after his release from a 12-year sentence for his part in the 1983 crime.

That was taken away from him in "one swipe" because of an RTÉ radio programme on October 24, 2015, he said.

He was being cross-examined in his action against RTÉ, claiming he was defamed by former TD Joe Costello on 'Saturday with Claire Byrne'.

Mr Kehoe says he was defamed when falsely described as a former IRA chief of staff who was controlling how SF councillors on Dublin City Council vote. RTÉ denies his claims.

Cian Ferriter SC, for RTÉ, put to him he could not pick and choose which parts of the IRA campaign of violence he supported. He replied: "I would say most or all the campaign was wrong for violence, it was wrong that people were killed."

Mr Kehoe agreed that while he saw his activities in the historical context, the vast majority would see it as criminal.

He agreed that the 1,196 people killed by the IRA never got to achieve things such as a BA in history from Trinity College - which he admitted was the happiest moment of his life.

Counsel said reasonable people would not believe he had a reputation when it comes to the IRA. He replied he could see that, but added: "I served my time and I came out changed."

Mr Ferriter also asked him if he was proud of his activities in the IRA. "No, I would not be proud," he replied.

"Are you ashamed?" counsel asked. He replied: "I would be, in a context."

Mr Kehoe, who was also sentenced to three years' imprisonment in 1974 for possession of explosives, said he took part in a 35-day hunger strike for political recognition in Portlaoise Prison. He denied he was a commander of one of the prison wings at that time.

Shocked

He said he was not in Portlaoise when chief prison officer Brian Stack was murdered and did not support that murder. Asked if he agreed he was regularly referred to as an IRA gunman, he said: "In the media."

Mr Ferriter put it to him that despite Joe Costello having made the comments, he had not taken a case against him.

Mr Kehoe replied he had acted on the advice of his lawyers. It was not Mr Costello who broadcast the matter, but RTÉ, "to 250,000 listeners".

Mr Kehoe had earlier told his own counsel, Declan Doyle, that he was shocked when he heard what had been said: "I thought is this Monty Python or some sort of stuff. I couldn't believe it."

The trial continues before a judge and jury.

Irish Independent

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