Friday 23 March 2018

Adams under pressure as SF chief is quizzed by police

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams speaks to the media on the plinth of Leinster House in Dublin, following the arrest of Bobby Storey by police investigating a murder by Provisional IRA members
Bobby Storey

Niall O'Connor, Philip Ryan and Adrian Rutherford

Sinn Féin chiefs Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are under huge pressure to finally come clean on their knowledge of IRA activity after the arrest of one of their most trusted confidantes, as well as claims surrounding the Enniskillen bombing.

The party was in crisis on both sides of the border following the shock arrest of influential republican Bobby Storey in connection with the brutal murder of Kevin McGuigan.

And SF’s woes were compounded after Mr McGuinness was linked to the horrific 1987 IRA bombing in Enniskillen which killed 11 people.

As the party struggled to contain the controversies, the Stormont Assembly was left teetering on the brink as unionists threaten to collapse the power-sharing agreement following Mr Storey’s arrest.

Read more: Profile: Bobby Storey spent almost 20 years in prison, but could influence how SF governs the Republic

Mr Storey, an alleged former head of IRA intelligence, served in Long Kesh prison with Mr Adams and continues to exert major influence over SF’s affairs. Known by some within the party as “Big Bobby”, Mr Storey has also been subjected to a claim in  the House of Commons that he was involved in the Northern Bank robbery.

Mr Adams yesterday described Mr Storey, the party’s Northern chairman, as a “long-standing friend”. 

"I first met him in ... Long Kesh when he was a very young man and the rest is a matter of history," he added.

Mr Storey was one of three republican figures last night being questioned in connection with the murder of Kevin McGuigan, His killing sparked revelations by the PSNI of the re-emergence of the Provos. Mr Storey was one of three republican figures last night being questioned in connection with the murder of Kevin McGuigan, His killing sparked revelations by the PSNI of the re-emergence of the Provos.

Read more: Storey arrest shows that peace process now at risk

Mr Storey attended the funeral of Gerard 'Jock' Davison, whose death is believed to have prompted the "retaliation hit" on Mr McGuigan.

But Mr Storey's detention has left Stormont's future hanging by a thread as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) today prepares to withdraw its ministers from the assembly.

DUP First Minister Peter Robinson has delivered an ultimatum to the British Government that it will collapse the power-sharing assembly unless Stormont is suspended to allow discussions on the threat posed by the Provos.

And Taoiseach Enda Kenny has arranged early morning talks with the North's SDLP party in a bid to prevent the collapse of power sharing in the North, the Irish Independent has learned.

The decision was taken because the SDLP party, led by Dr Alasdair McDonnell, has the numbers to potentially scupper the DUP's plans to suspend the assembly if it votes with Sinn Fein. The DUP has issued the British Government with an ultimatum that they will resign unless Stormont is suspended.

However, the Irish Government is of the view that an "adjournment" is the right option and is seeking the SDLP to support the move.

But Sinn Féin's woes were compounded yesterday after it was claimed that a senior police investigator was prevented from questioning Mr McGuinness over the Enniskillen bombing after the Government advised it "would not be a good idea".

Read more: Outcome of PSNI questioning will be key factor in future of peace process

The astonishing claim was made by a victims' campaigner who was giving evidence to a Westminster committee probing how the Government handled compensation claims by families of IRA victims injured by bombs manufactured with explosives provided by the Colonel Gaddafi regime.

Kenny Donaldson, from Fermanagh, said he was told by a senior investigator with the now-defunct Historical Enquiries Team that investigators wanted to question Mr McGuinness about the atrocity. However, he told MPs that the Northern Ireland Office had advised that it "would not be a good idea".

Sinn Féin yesterday completely rejected the claim and said it was based on "unsubstantiated hearsay to link him to the Enniskillen bombing".

Stephen Gault, whose father Samuel was killed in the bombing, said he was not surprised.

"I have said in the past that McGuinness has knowledge of Enniskillen," he said.

"If there is evidence there that this man should have been questioned, then that should have happened, no matter who he was.

"It is one step too far that the government can just sweep this under the carpet. Everybody deserves to get truth and justice."

Nobody has ever been convicted for the Enniskillen bomb.

In Dublin, Mr Adams appeared shaken as he took questions from the media on the arrest of Mr Storey.

"I have grave concerns about how all of this has developed, including the arrest of Bobby Storey," he said, adding the pair have been friends since Long Kesh. Mr Adams said his party still supports the PSNI and the investigation it is carrying out into the murders of Mr McGuigan and Mr Davison

However, despite his standing in Belfast, Mr Adams said he could not exert any influence over the former members of the Provisional IRA, who are under investigation for the murders.

Irish Independent

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