Tuesday 22 October 2019

Loss of face led to brutal IRA killing

Paul Quinn's family now want to meet Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs minister, writes Jim Cusack

The family of Paul Quinn wants to meet the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern to ask if he still believes that the IRA had nothing to do with last month's brutal killing of the young man.

Since Mr Ahern stated in the week after the murder in Co Monaghan that he did not believe the IRA had directed it, the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) has agreed with Paul Quinn's family that the gang "included people who are members or former members or have associations with members or former members of the Provisional IRA".

The minister had said he wished to wait until the "security forces" on both sides of the border and the IMC made a statement on the murder before indicating his position. In the aftermath of the killing of Paul Quinn, he said he was "gratified" that Sinn Fein had condemned the murder.

The "official" line from the Garda is that they have an "open mind" on the murder -- and that position is likely to remain. However, Garda and local sources have told the Sunday Independent that there is now no doubt that the IRA was responsible.

The motivating factor behind the murder appears to have been an incident in which Paul Quinn, from Cullyhanna in south Armagh, punched and kicked the son of the 'Officer Commanding' of the IRA in south Armagh.

The 'OC' is one of the local men who have become rich from criminal activities. He is not known outside republican and security circles. He served a term of imprisonment in Portlaoise in the Eighties and was suspected of being the leader of the IRA's sniper team in south Armagh which killed nine members of the security forces, though he was never arrested in relation to these murders. He is married with a grown family.

Within a week or two of the first incident, Quinn was confronted in a bar and another fight broke out. Paul Quinn came off best against two sons of another local IRA figure who works for the 'OC' in his criminal activities.

It is the family's belief -- contrary to the claims by Sinn Fein, which are now supported by both governments and the DUP -- that Paul Quinn was not murdered because of his very minor role in criminal activities but because the sons of two of the main figures in the major Provisional IRA crime gang in south Armagh had lost face in the fights.

According to republican sources in south Armagh, a meeting was held by the Provisional IRA's local leadership which sanctioned the beating that led to Paul Quinn's death. A team of at least 15 men was appointed to abduct and beat the 21-year-old. Paul Quinn and his friends are believed to have been kept under surveillance and followed for almost two weeks before the brutal murder on October 20.

A disused byre in Co Monaghan was decided on as the location for the beating. Two of Quinn's friends were abducted and one was made to phone him, asking him to come and help clear the shed for cattle. At the time, say Paul's family, he was nervous and feared that he was going to be beaten in retaliation for his fights with the other youths. The call from his friend was designed to assure him that he was not being lured to an unsafe place. He arrived in his car at the shed with another friend whom he had brought along to help with the work.

While it is believed locally that it was not the IRA leadership's intention to murder the young man, the gang at the shed beat him with such savagery, using implements including iron bars, that death was a very clear possibility.

After the gang left, one of Paul's friends rang Paul's girlfriend, Emma Murphy, and asked her to phone for an ambulance. She then went to the shed where she found Paul barely conscious.

Speaking on BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight last Tuesday night,Emma said that Paul asked to be taken home and spoke for a little while longer before his speech became incomprehensible and he then drifted into unconsciousness. He was taken to Drogheda Hospital where he was pronounced dead at around 8pm.

While Paul Quinn's three friends were being held captive, the young man was beaten for the best part of half an hour. The gang, all wearing disposable overalls and surgical gloves, were taken away in a waiting van. One of Paul Quinn's friends said that during the beating, one of the men who was holding the others captive told him: "You know who are the bosses around here now. We are the bosses."

The spokesman for the Quinn family said yesterday that the position adopted by both the Irish and British governments had added hurt to the family's grief. A meeting was held on Thursday night by a group set up to support the family in their quest for the killers to be brought to justice.

Jim McAllister, a former Sinn Fein elected representative who left the party several years ago and is a friend and neighbour of the Quinn family in Cullyhanna, said: "They intend to meet the leaders of all the political parties. They particularly want to meet the Taoiseach and particularly the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern. They want to meet church leaders. We are decided on how to take this further. We do not want to see the collapse of Stormont. The family want Stormont to continue but they feel there is a need to stop this cover-up.

"Sinn Fein is insulting its own party members by saying there was no IRA involvement, that this was the work of 'criminals'. Everybody you meet in the street knows, though they don't want to discuss it," he said.

The Ulster Unionist peer, Lord Laird, who named a number of republican figures in a speech to the House of Lords on Monday night, said yesterday: "Both governments have become addicted to this peace process policy of pretending the IRA is never to blame. This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue. They must face facts. It is ironic that the DUP, which crucified David Trimble over IRA crimes when he was in government, are in denial over this murder. I wonder what the religious types in the DUP must think."

On Tuesday night's BBC Spotlight programme, Conor Murphy, Sinn Fein South Armagh MLA and Minister in the Stormont government, was adamant there was no IRA involvement and said Paul Quinn's family was being "manipulated" by people with anti-Sinn Fein agendas. Paul Quinn's mother Briege rejected this, saying they were not being manipulated and the family had asked Jim McAllister to act as their spokesman.

A former IRA member, who asked to remain anonymous, said that it was a widely held view among former IRA and Sinn Fein supporters that the IRA's drift into organised crime was something that was not only condoned but actively encouraged by the British government as part of a strategy to see an end to its campaign of terror.

He said the IRA in south Armagh was now a "mafia". He did not disagree when asked if the killing was sanctioned.

The murder of Paul Quinn bears a striking resemblance to a number of murders carried out by IRA units which have evolved into crime gangs in the decade since the ceasefires were consolidated.

In the past two years in Dublin, two men who had confrontations with the IRA in which IRA figures 'lost face' were murdered. Joseph Rafferty was targeted because he stood up to IRA-related thugs who attacked one of his relatives. He was shot dead by an IRA man, who was connected with Sinn Fein, in Clonee in April 2005.

James Curran, 42, was shot dead the same month because he confronted the IRA in the Liberties area after he witnessed members accepting 'protection' money from a local heroin-dealing criminal gang.

Curran was shot dead as he sat in the Green Lizard pub by ex-Sinn Fein and former prominent 'Concerned Parents Against Drugs' campaigner, Bernard Dempsey, the man whom he had confronted over accepting the protection money payments.

Matthew Burns, another young man who had a run-in with the IRA in his home town of Castlewellan, Co Down, was shot dead in 2002.

Burns, a keep-fit fanatic and kick boxing champion had a few months earlier fought off a gang of six masked IRA men who had attempted to beat him with cudgels.

Despite murdering over 40 people, carrying out horrific punishment beatings and shootings and dozens of major robberies, the Government did not put any pressure on the IRA/Sinn Fein leadership to end its involvement in criminality until after the robbery of the Northern Bank in December 2004 and the murder, a month later, of Robert McCartney.

In the aftermath of those events, the Taoiseach made his first and only major attack on Sinn Fein and the IRA in the Dail and demanded that the killing, punishments and criminality end.

According to Jim McAllister, the government response to the murder of Paul Quinn seems, again, to be to "turn a blind eye".

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