News tonight that veteran West Belfast Republican, Kevin Hannaway, one of the ‘hooded men’ tortured by British intelligence after the 1971 internment swoop has been arrested in Dublin on charges apparently connected to dissident armed republican activity. He appeared in court yesterday evening along with four others, including another member of the Hannaway clan.
The significance of the allegation is twofold. First of all Kevin Hannaway’s father Liam was a brother of Gerry Adams’ mother, Annie Hannaway, which makes Gerry and Kevin cousins. The fact that such a close relative of the architect of the Sinn Fein/Provisional IRA peace process strategy has been accused of being in sympathy with enemies of the peace process is likely to be a source of considerable embarrassment and political discomfort for the SF President – at least in pre-peace process republican circles.
The second important feature of Kevin Hannaway’s arrest is that he is one of the most respected survivors of the Provisional IRA’s founding fathers and won enormous respect for surviving British Army and RUC Special Branch torture during the 1971 internment swoop.
In a sidebar to the internment operation, he was one of twelve men selected for in-depth interrogation by British intelligence, an experience which the victims said was torture. They took the case to Europe, initially won but lost on a British appeal. The decision was later cited as justifying CIA torture by the Bush White House.
Following a recent decision to re-open the case, their legal action is now being re-fought at the European Court of Human Rights; one of the leading lawyers acting for Hannaway is Amal Clooney, wife of the movie star George Clooney.
Kevin Hannaway rose to become Quarter-Master General of the IRA and held that post when the IRA negotiated the ‘Eksund’ arms deal with Libya’s Col Gaddafi. However he became ill shortly afterwards, suffering from the long lasting after effects of his torture, and quit that post. His successor was Michael McKevitt, who along with Tom ‘Slab’ Murphy, then Northern Commander of the IRA, successfully transported all the Libyan arms shipments to Ireland, bar the final one on the Eksund.
Hannaway became Adjutant-General after leaving the QMG post but not long afterwards resigned from the IRA, again citing ill-health.
The fact that such a distinguished and high-ranking IRA veteran has been accused of a relationship with dissident republicans – even though the details are not yet clear – is a development that will not be welcomed by the ‘New Provos’, especially after a weekend which saw one of their leaders, Martin McGuinness, condemn republicans who clashed with the PSNI as they commemorated the anniversary of internment.