After days of silence from Ireland’s paper of record, or at least no published articles on the killing of Kevin McGuigan written by a staff writer, The Irish Times has, courtesy of a piece filed by an unnamed reporter from the Press Association (PA), pronounced the McGuigan slaying outside his Short Strand home last week “a suspected feud between former IRA members”.
This politically safe if somewhat ambiguous depiction would, if reflected in the results of the PSNI ‘investigation’, get Sinn Fein off the hook and defuse any threat from the DUP leader Peter Robinson to expel the party from the power-sharing Executive, a threat Mr Robinson would have to make good if the PSNI found that the killing was authorised by the republican/Sinn Fein leadership or that there was foreknowledge on their part.
The use of the phrase “former members” by the PA, and its endorsement by the Times is critical to all this; on one reading, it carries the implicit suggestion that the killers were not members of any existing republican group or the Provisional IRA in a re-structured form, could not have been ordered to kill, and thus accords with the official peace process narrative which claims that the IRA went out of business in July 2005.
On that reading this killing could therefore be seen as an intervention by former combatants that had nothing to do with the Sinn Fein or IRA leadership. In May, Jock Davison, a senior IRA figure in the city was slain in the Markets district and last week, his alleged killer was struck down in the nearby Short Strand. Thus the narrative could read: old friends fell out and their mates took sides, but nothing to do with the Provos.
Neither the PA nor The Irish Times provide any evidence to support this claim nor do they source it. The Press Association has an interesting history covering the Northern Troubles. For a period in the late 1970’s its Belfast office was known for its excellent IRA sources but after complaints from the British military there were staff changes and thereafter the PA became better known for its RUC and security force stories.
Observers of the republican scene, including this writer, believe that while the mainstream IRA no longer exists in its old form and size, the organisation most certainly retains an intelligence-gathering wing which is active on both sides of the Border while common sense – namely the need to defend against precisely the sort of assault represented by the Davison killing – strongly suggests a precautionary need for some armed capacity.
No seasoned observer believes that weapons are not available for use and there is a widespread suspicion in republican districts of Belfast that the McGuigan killing was ordered with the intention of deterring any more killings like that of Mr Davison.
Nonetheless given the high stakes at risk, no less than the survival of the power-sharing government at Stormont, a PSNI inquiry which concluded that Kevin McGuigan was killed by armed members of an organisation linked to Sinn Fein would be a disaster for supporters of the peace process.
The Irish Times/PA description – “a feud by former IRA members (with the accent on ‘former’)” – would give Sinn Fein a ‘get out of jail free’ card and save the process.
A wise punter would bet the mortgage on it. But be quick.
Below is The Irish Times/PA story:
Shankill bomber questioned in McGuigan murder inquiry
IRA Shankill bomber Seán Kelly is being questioned by police investigating the killing of former Provisional IRA member Kevin McGuigan.
Mr McGuigan, a 53-year-old father of nine, was murdered at his home at Comber Court in the Short Strand area of east Belfast last week, in a suspected feud between former IRA members.
He was shot a number of times in front of his wife Dolores outside their home in Comber Court last Wednesday.
Mr McGuigan was suspected by some in the republican movement of involvement in the killing of former IRA leader Gerard “Jock” Davison in the nearby Markets area of Belfast three months ago.
There has been widespread speculation his killing was a revenge attack by Mr Davison’s associates.
Stormont’s First Minister Peter Robinson has warned Sinn Féin it would face expulsion from the power-sharing Executive if the IRA was responsible.
Mr McGuigan’s relatives have used social media to accuse the IRA.
Sinn Féin has rejected the suggestion of IRA involvement.
Kelly and is among five men aged 39, 53, 41, 44 and 49 being questioned by detectives.
Kelly and Thomas Begley planted a bomb in Frizzell’s fish shop in 1993.
Begley, died in the explosion with nine other people.
Kelly was released from prison under the Good Friday Agreement.
Weapons recovered during searches in Greater Belfast have been sent for forensic examination, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.
The Shankill deaths were among the most notorious of the later years of the Troubles.
IRA bombers intended to target paramilitaries they believed were meeting upstairs in one of the most famously loyalist parts of the city. Instead niine shoppers were killed and dozens more injured.
Begley, also died in the blast in the packed fishmongers after the device exploded prematurely. The attack took place on a Saturday afternoon in October 1993.
A total of 57 people were injured, some seriously. Among them was a 79-year-old woman and two two-year-old boys.
Following the attack, the Ulster Defence Association carried out a series of retaliatory attacks, killing eight people at a Catholic bar in Greysteel near Derry shortly afterwards.