Wigmore - Kevin McGready's IRA confessions
ON JUNE 25 last Kevin McGready, 26, was sentenced to life imprisonment at Belfast, Crown Court after pleading guilty to 27 charges, including three counts of murder, and four of attempted murder. Passing sentence, "Lord Justice,," Gibson regretted that he couldn't be more lenient, but McGready had pleaded guilty ,and the, life sentence was mandatory.
McGready is the Belfast Provo whe got off-side to Holland in 1975, and retunied home last January to present himself at Townsend Street RUC staation where he announced that he had f0und Jesus in Amsterdam and wanted to make a full confession.
To the RUC detective at Castlereagh who took his statement - it eventually ran to almost 100 foolscap pages, McGready was indeed heaven-sent. Mainly on the basis of his prolific confessions, 29 pe0ple were arrested on February 5 in swoops in Belfast, Derty, Armagh and East Tyrone. The best-known was Sinn Fein full-timer Jim Gibney. The following day. a further 14 people were picked up.
McGready has been the most spectacular of a number of "super-grasses" whose evidence has put up to 200 alleged paramilitaries behind bars in the past eight months. The 200 including about 160 IRA and INLA suspects, plus. about 40 Loyalists, mainly alleged UVF men.
What may be causing RUC chiefs concern however, is that the only person named in the recent superrgrass statements who has actually been found guilty and sentenced is Kevin McGreadY himself .. All the rest are still on remand. And many lawyers in the North noW believe that many of these will eventually be released with0ut ever coming to trial, and that of those who-are brought to court, most will be found not guilty for tack of acceptable, corroborative evidence. Lawyers involved in the cases are also concerned at the implications in cases in which informers have been promised immunity from prosecution in return for their evidence. ".
McGready's fellow supergrasses include Ardoyme ex-Provo Christopher Black, arrested last November, whose statements helped net 41 suspected Republicans, including 20 in a single early morning swoop; Dungannon Provo Pat McGurk, responsible fer the arrest in February of eight Tyrone men now charged with a wide range of "terrorist" offences; Jackie Goodman, INLA and Official IRA veteran from Sprinthill in west Belfast and Armagh man John Patrick Grimley, whose confessions in March resulted in the arrest of more than 30 people in Belfast, Derry and Co Armagh and subsequently charged with INLA membership and other offences; James Bimbo O'Rawe of New Barnsley who incriminated six west Belfast Republicans after "breaking" in Castlereagh in March; Clifford McKeown, from Aghalee in Armagh, arrested last November and blamed for/credited with the charging of 27 alleged UVF members.
By March, the combined efforts of this disparate group had led unwary police spokbspersons including Chief Constable Jack Hermon to talk, again, of tides turliing and fundamental changes in community attitudes to informers. Since then, a number of developments suggest this was premature.
AT THE beginning of April, 44 year old Special Branch sergeant Thomas Charles McCormick was acquitted in Belfast on 23 of 27 "terrorist" charges folloWing a 17-day trial dominated by the evidence of Tony O'Doherty, 32, of Portglenone. O'Doherty, a longtime RUC informer; gave evidence of involvement with McCormick in a bizarre chain of crime including the murder of another RUC sergeant, Joseph Campbell in Cushendall in Feb 1977. Acquitting McCormick on all charges en which there was no indeependent corroboration of O'Doherty'S evidence, Mr. Justice Murray said:
"O'Doherty is to be, treated as an accomplice and it is dangerous to convict McCormiCk On all the offences on the evidence O'Doherty alone.
On this basis, most of those awaiting trial on foot of evidence from McGready, Black, Goodman, Grimley and McKeow are now much more confident of the outcome.
THat apart, the RUC and DPP face the constant possibility that the grasses might begin to ponder the essential mortality of the human condition and decide to withdraw or deny that evidence. On May 14, for example, six Ballymurphy men charged on the basis, of Bimbo O'Rawe's statement were released at Belfast court after O'Rawe withdrew his statement.
With the cases possibly beginning to crumble in their hands, the North's police and law chiefs also have to face a deepening "Concern among lawyers about the ethical,importations of the whole "supergrass" operation. This is likely to come to the fore this month when cases based on statements from Clifford McKeown are sCheduled to come to court for nation.
MCKEOWN was arrested last Novemmber by all accounts in a drunken stupor at the time. Within days, 27 people were picked up as a"result of his statements and charged with a series of offences including (in one case) murder. In his statement, McKeown himself admitted involvement in one murder, one attempted murder, a series of armed robberies and a nummber of other crimes. He has been promised immunity from prosecution in return for his evidence.
McKeown made a series of Written statements to detectives in Castlereagh following his arrest: An initial nine-page statement was followed by a 366 page catalogue of alleged UVF activity in Lurgan-Portadown. Later, McKeown made an additional three-page statement in which he is believed to have named three RUC officers as having been involved in UVF activity in the area.
The murderMcKeown admitted was of 20-year-old Peadar Fagan; who was shot dead while sitting in a parked car in the Catholic Kilwilkie housing estate in Lurgan shortly after midnight on November 17. The killing was in retaliation for the IRA assasssination of MP Robert Bradford two days earlier.
There was speculation at the time that Mr. Fagan might have been sinngled out. He was one of a prominent GAA family and a member of the Lurgan Clann Eireann Club, which Loyalist paramilitaries might have regarded as a Republican connection. In fact, UVF sources in the area say that McKeown and another man had set out in a hi-jacked Ford Capri to kill a leading Portadown republican and that it was after failing to find this man in the Churchill Park area of Portadown that - at McKeown's suggestion it is claimed - the pair drove the six miles to Lurgan to shoot any Catholic available. Six shots were fired from a revolver, killing Mr. Fagan instantly and seriously wounding a companion.
It is believed that in his-statement McKeown claims to have been the driver of the Capri and that his passsenger fired ,the shots. UVF sources in Portadown are adamant that the reverse was the case.
The following night McKeown was, on his own admission, one of two men on a motor cycle who drew up at a filling station at Lisnadill, Co. Armagh. When the attendant, Patrick O'Hare, a Catholic, turned away to reach for the pump the pillion passenger aimed a gun at his head from a distance of two feet and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed. Again, there is disagreement between local UVF sources and what McKeown is believed to have said in his statement as to whether he was the gun-man on the pillion or the driver. There is no disagreement that he was there.
Among the other offences which McKeown admits are a number of armed robberies - again, the local UVF reckon he netted up to £30,000 - and a series of conspiracies to murrder.
WHEN THREE of those charged on the basis of McKeown's evidence made an application for bail on February 25, their solicitor, Eugene Grant, protessted vigorously that the three R UC men named by McKeon were still on duty: if the evidence was good enough to keep his clien ts behind bars, why wasn't it good enough to have the named trio suspended, at least.
When the bail hearing was resumed after a week Judge Turlough O'Donnnell observed impenetrably that this aspect of McKeown's evidence had now been considered and "had not damaged his (McKeown's) credibility."
Of all the super-grasses McKeown is believed to be the only one to have admitted murder - and been promised immunity. It is this which has perturbed lawyers - and, according to some sources, senior RUC officers in Portaadown as well.
In May, one of 26 people remanded for trial on McKeown's word, wrote to the Dublin Sunday World: "Any day now we can expect to see someebody arrested for murder but because he says he knows somebody who robbbed a shop he will get immunity from prosecution."
A lawyer defending some of those charged says: "The McKeown case is the most mind-boggling of all the super-grass affairs. How can somebody who admits putting a gun to another human being's head and pulling the trigger do a deal which gets him off scot-free - in exchange for helping to put away people who almost all are charged with far lesser offences?"
Meanwhile the UVF in Porta do wn hint - indeed say explicitly - that McKeown's mention of RUC invollvement in their activity in the area is very much the tip of an ice-berg.
"If our people go down, we will pull an awful lot with us. There's some high-up will be very embarrassed before this is all over."
One way and another, the superrgrass phenomenon, which a few months ago seemed to be opening up a bright new era for law enforcement in the North, could yet end in fiasco and embarrassment and major damage inflicted not on the "terrorists" but on the law and the forces of law.
Wigmore - corruption in the press, The Sunday Journal, Margaret Thatcher and others
PAUL Mahon's most spectacular coup may well have been not the defrauding of Erin Foods for nearly £2m. but the defrauding of several Dublin Sunday newspapers for some several thousand pounds, having promised each of them "exclusivity" .
On June 20 last all the Dublin newsspapers carried full scale personal dissclosures by Mahon, who had been found dead in a bedroom in the Gressham Hotel a few days previously. Mahon had been around to all the newspaper offices over the previous
months and had spent well over 30 hours in deep interviews with several reporters. He told vastly conflicting stories to these reporters - for innstance the location of his exile - and mesmerised them with details of commplicated financial swindles in the Far and Middle East. One thing which none of the reporters concerned seems to have bothered doing was to check the story with contacts inside Erin Foods, let alone the Far East. The result was a fantastic miasma of ficction and fact, one indecipherable from the other.
Sean Boyne of The Sunday World went to most trouble with the story and made some real attempt to desscribe simply what actually happened. The Sunday World also presented the story in the most compelling manner. The Sunday Journal's Willie Kealy also went to some pains but he too failed to run any checks on what Mahon told him. Paddy Clancy and Michael MeeConnell who run a newsagency in Dubblin and who sold the story to The Sunnday Independent reputedly paid Mahon the most money.
Gordon Thomas contributed a pecuuliar third person piece to The Sunday Press - he obviously wrote it, but wrote the story in the form of an interview with himself. He did manage to capture the schizophrenia of Mahon and the wildness of many of his claims. Jim Farrelly perhaps succeeded best at this, conveying most vividly the demmentia, the confusion, the inconsisttencies and the ego of Mahon. It was Farrelly who also saw .beyond the story to enquire into the ramifications of the fraud for Erin Foods as a whole in a follow-up story for The Sunday Tribune of June 27.
THE ECSTATIC public euphoria over our very own royal wedding should not dim memories of the egregious Watershed scandal. It is refreshing to note that at least one defender of jusstice and truth in our society, Brian Lenihan, has not been mesmerised by the glitter and pomp of the royal occasion, for he attacked the wretched Alexis at a city function recently and vowed that the scandal would not be allowed to die.
For those with all too short memoories of the affair, the following is a brief recital of the facts: Dessie Hynes of Longford, purchased O'Donoghue's public house in Merrion Row, Dublin in late 1977. A shed at the back of the pub remained in the possession of the O'Donoghue family - they had tempporary need of it to house furniture etc. Once the O'Donoghues no longer had 'need of the shed Dessie Hynes sought to purchase the edifice to store empty bottles. However, an estrangement had arisen between the new owners of the pub and the former owners over someething to do with walking a dog. Hynes therefore approached auctioneer Aleexis FitzGerald to purchase the shed on
his behalf. The latter agreed to do so but then went off and bought the shed for himself. He then persuaded the corporation to place a light over the shed which would have had the effect of making Dessie Hynes empty bottles more vulnerable to theft, from the politicians, hacks, empressarios, and property speculators who have effecctively replaced the former decent clienntele of O'Donoghues. Sentimentality
over the great occasion must not be allowed to stem the public outrage over this heinious deed. Now that the Dail's Committee of Procedures and Privileges has managed to work up a head of steam over the override issue, perhaps they might also cast a glance at the shed.
CORRUPTION is no less rife in journalism than anywhere else, although for obvious reasons it receives less pubblic attention. The most notorious form of corruption comes in the shape of kickbacks for "favours" received - e.g. property or travel correspondents being actually paid for the publicity they donate. But there is another and more prevalent form: the "freebee" synndrome - free .foreign trips, free hotel accommodation, free meals in resttaurants. Most journalists avail of these "perks" from time to time - for innstance this journalist has received one foreign trip in the course of his career, incidentally before the birth of Magill. All such favours represent a form of corruption for they amount to a decception of the reader who is led to beelieve that the restaurant or airline or holiday resort or whatever is being evaluated objectively when in fact the evaluation is nothing but a "payment" for the favour.
But for some journalists the "freeebee" syndrome represents almost a way of life. Readers of this column will not be surprised to learn that one John Feeney, the worst journalist in the world, is one of the most outtrageous offenders in this regard. His constant "plugs" for restaurants such as Dobbins and the Mirabeau are merely favours for a regular diet of free meals in both these establishments. He has also got involved in the foreign trips and the free hotel accommodation caper and, predictably, never informs his dwindling readers that the praised location has proferred a welcome bribe.
HAD GEORGE Colley consented to serve in the Haughey Cabinet last March, who would have been the one to be left out? Martin O'Donoghue is generally regarded as the beneficiary of Colley's non serviam edict but we have learned that this is not so. The casualty would have been none other than John Wilson, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and Transport. Mr Wilson irked the Haughey camp during the O'Malley coup by first of all agreeing to second Haughey's nommination as the party's nominee for Taoiseach and then finding a constittuency reason for not doing so.
JIM Prior should learn to keep his mouth shut. It was when he prematurrely announced that the I500-job Hyster plant was going to the North that Albert Reynolds first heard of it and sent an IDA team to Oregon to successtully hi-jack the plant.
THE CONVOLUTIONS which our betters in Dail Eireann went to in order to avoid a general election reccently were truly fantastic. At a meetting prior to the critical vote on the raising of the income tax bands Labbour and The Workers Party agreed to vote against each other's amendments, thereby ensuring, they thought, the survival of the Government. It came as a surprise therefore to both to find themselves forced to take a posiition first of all on the Government's proposal to keep the lower band at £4,400 - they were both constrained to vote against. The Government would have fallen had it not been for Mr. Tony Gregory who had indicated to reporters 15 minutes before the vote that he was going to go into the Opposition lobby. Seeing how the other opposition deputies were going to vote against the Government Greggory did a swift re-assessment and oppted to go into the Fianna Fail lobby. As he reached the top of the stairs leading into the lobby, with Sherlock at his shoulder, Sherlock was heard to mutter, "For God's sake go left!" (i.e. vote with Fianna Fail). Gregory obliged.
MARGARET Thatcher will lose the next British general election and the Labour Party under Michael Foot will be the victors. This prediction arises from a theory of politics developed by this reporter over some years based on the premise that elections are deterrmined a year to 18 months in advance of actual voting and that the electorrate's mind is made up by the rate of inflation and, to a lesser extent, by the unemployment level - if both are above the average for a sustained perriod a year prior to an election then the incumbent Government cannot win.
The argument is sustained in spite of any short term advantages that a Government might seem to incur e.g. the Falklands/Malvinas victory or, for an Irish Government, "breakkthroughs" on Northern Ireland. It also remains valid in the face of opinnion polls which oscillate wildly in the period immediately prior to an elecction. This theory held good for the 1977 and 1981 general elections in Ireland, fer the 1970, the February 1974 and 1979 British elections, for last year's French Presidential elecction, for the Canadian general election before last, etc. The theory could not apply in the case of the last Irish elecction because the new Government had not managed to establish a sufficient track record. The one factor that might disturb the above prediction in the case of the forthcoming British general election is the intervention of the SDP. However, given the British electoral system, the likelihood is that the SDP will fade as a threat as the election approaches and the electorate will be faced with the stark choice between re-electing the Thatcher Govvernment which endured such economic adversity during the critical period or a Labour Party, which has certainly done all it could to subvert this line of argument. We hold by the predicction that Labour will win.
JIM HAND, the most powerful man in Ireland, approached Jim Mitchell on the day that the telephone bugging affair broke in the Dail. Mr. Hand ennquired: "I suppose an override is out of the question?".
THE DEMISE of The Sunday Journal, is to be regretted as should the closure of any publication here. The paper never managed to achieve editorial credibility following its switch from being a farmers' Sunday to a paper aimed at the general Sunday reader. This was in spite of some excellent editorial work on issues such as crime, the church and politics. For a while it was providing the best political coverage on Sunday with the obvious exceptions of Geraldine Kennedy in The Sunday Tribune and Joe O'Mallley in The Sunday Independent. The shareholders of PMPA however may take a less benign view of its operation.