Opinion Comment

Sunday 16 December 2018

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

Bobby Storey
Bobby Storey

Jim Cusack

Bobby Storey could influence how the Republic of Ireland is governed, should Sinn Féin come to power.

In November last year, Storey's sway within the 'Republican Movement' was exposed with the publication of a memo he sent to all party representatives on how to respond to the rape of Mairia Cahill and the subsequent IRA cover-up.

His memo, sent to every Sinn Féin representative (around 400 in all), described Cahill's campaign for justice as "political opposition to Sinn Féin".

Storey directed: "At a wider level, party activists should refrain from making any comment on social media sites or in any other way around the issue of the sexual abuse of Mairia Cahill. Such comments are both inappropriate and elements of the media will attempt to misuse or misinterpret any comment - as has already happened."

The content of his memo is secondary to the fact of who he is. He is not merely a senior figure in a political party. He spent almost 20 years in prison, including a brief period in England, where he was arrested for conspiring to hijack a helicopter to spring the then-IRA chief of staff Brian Keenan from Brixton Prison.

He was arrested in 1981 with a rifle after the shooting of a soldier and sentenced to 18 years. He was questioned, but never charged, in relation to the Northern Bank robbery in December 2004.

He was questioned about the spy ring which brought down the power-sharing assembly in 2002 - but again never charged.

He was elected chairman of Sinn Féin's Cuige Uladh at a party meeting in Gulladuff, Co Derry, that was addressed by both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness in January last year.

His chairmanship of the Ulster Council is the only position he is known to have held in Sinn Féin.

Mairia Cahill described his memo as 'grotesque', adding: "I don't remember a time when any victim of sexual abuse was treated in such a scandalous manner by anyone in a very public way."

The fallout from the murder of Kevin McGuigan points to the continued existence of the Provisional IRA and its governing Army Council. Sinn Féin has reached the position where it views itself as being on the cusp of leading the Opposition in the next Dáil and with a chance of being the leading party in the election after that.

Despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence of the continued existence of the IRA and its Army Council, relatively few people in positions of influence appear to be contemplating the stark realities.

In the event of Sinn Féin becoming the biggest party in Dáil Éireann, its TDs could be governed by diktat from the relative unknown who is currently being questioned about the IRA execution of Kevin McGuigan.

Irish Independent

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