| 5.6°C Dublin

Court papers claim McGuinness met with fugitve killer of Garda McCabe

PRESIDENTIAL hopeful Martin McGuinness held secret meetings with an IRA killer on the run over the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, documents show.

Signed official statements confirmed that Mr McGuinness twice met garda-killer Kevin Walsh while he was on the run.

Walsh and three others were eventually given sentences ranging from 11 to 14 years after Det McCabe (right) was shot during a botched IRA raid on a post office van in Adare, Co Limerick in 1996.

Mr McGuinness did not notify gardai of either of the meetings, which are revealed in the State's book of evidence for the 1999 trial of Walsh and others. The statements say the presidential candidate repeatedly met Walsh while he was holed up in a Co Cavan farmhouse following the murder.

The statements were made by two members of a family with whom Walsh (now aged 46) was hiding until his arrest in 1998.

They say Walsh was visited by at least two senior Sinn Fein figures while he was living at the farmhouse near the village of Mullagh.

They say those figures were party president Gerry Adams and Mr McGuinness.

The killing of Det Garda McCabe was initially denied by the IRA, but a few days later the IRA leadership did admit their men were involved.

There was an outcry in 1999 when four of those involved -- Walsh, Pearse McAuley, Jeremiah Sheehy and Michael O'Neill -- pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Gardai believe Walsh was the gunman who fired 15 shots from an AK47 at Jerry McCabe and his colleague and friend Ben O'Sullivan, who was seriously injured in the attack.

Walsh was released from prison in 2009.

Security sources on both sides of the border have long maintained that Mr McGuinness was on the IRA's Army Council for years after the mid 1970s -- the time he claims he left the IRA -- including the period when Jerry McCabe was murdered.