Tag Archives: Kevin McGuigan

The McGuigan Killing: Written On The Barn

Thanks to Lin Solomon for sending this interesting piece from Belfast novelist Glenn Patterson which appeared on the London Review of Books blog. Enjoy:

I have recently had occasion to reread a piece I wrote in November 2007 following the beating to death of Paul Quinn in a shed on the southern side of the Irish border by – local people said – the Provisional IRA. I mentioned Gerry Adams’s categorical denial of IRA involvement, I noted that the British and Irish governments were reassured by his call for those involved to be brought to justice, and referenced the further calls, from the Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Féin’s partner in the (then new) power-sharing executive to wait to see if there was evidence of ‘corporate’ IRA responsibility, a phrase whose ‘Blairite banality’, I suggested, masked ‘a volte-face to rival Orwell’s “four legs good, two legs better”’.

Substitute the name Kevin McGuigan for Paul Quinn and the piece might have been written yesterday. 

Last week Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes of the Police Service of Northern Ireland said the PSNI believed that Action Against Drugs – the gang that murdered Kevin McGuigan – included past and current members of the Provisional IRA. Cue the denials, not just of IRA involvement, but even of its existence. The IRA – Sinn Féin’s MLA for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, was the first to come out with it – had, in a phrase revived from 2005, ‘left the stage’. (The Irish Times, misquoting Kelly repeatedly, used the term ‘left the State’, which might be wishful thinking.) Cue the calls for caution until it is proved the killing was sanctioned by the leadership, the warnings against other parties making political capital from it. Pace Sinn Féin, it is not only or even mostly ‘Unionists’ who are blaming the Provisionals: the people in the streets where Kevin McGuigan lived are blaming them. One Ulster Television news report claimed the laneway down which the gunmen made their escape was referred to locally as ‘Provo alley’.

At the weekend the PSNI’s chief constable, George Hamilton, clarified Geddes’s statement. The Provisional IRA continued to exist, he said, but in a much altered form. It was not involved in the preparation or commission of terrorist acts. Its main purpose was to ensure that republicans remained committed to peaceful and democratic means.

This is what is known as ‘a line’ and everyone is sticking to it. If this was a Radio 4 panel show there would be klaxons and cheers from the audience at the end of every interview. And if it was a Radio 4 panel show the winner, this week, would undoubtedly be Theresa Villiers, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, who, while saying she was satisfied that all parties in the executive remained supportive of the principles of democracy and consent, blithely said she wasn’t surprised that the IRA continued to exist. We are surprised, Secretary of State, only because you and your predecessors have spent the last decade trying to convince us, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that it does not.

To return again to that 2007 article, I have a vague memory of feeling the Animal Farm allusion was perhaps overstating it. Nearly eight years on I don’t think it’s going too far to say the ladder is lying broken in the farmyard, the paintbrush and overturned pot of white paint beside it. And I really wouldn’t be surprised if, statement by statement, in the weeks ahead, we are asked to believe that what is now written on the barn is what we signed up to all along.

The McGuigan Killing: PSNI Say IRA Did It But Didn’t Do It – Go Figure!

UPDATE ONE

In an updated statement from PSNI headquarters, Det Supt Kevin Geddes adds one significant sentence, which does little to clear up confusion surrounding his first statement.

The sentence is: ““Our assessment is that Action Against Drugs (AAD) is an independent group which is not part of the Provisional IRA. But it is also our assessment that some members and associates of AAD are, or were, members of the Provisional IRA.”

One possible translation: AAD is a group composed of dissident republicans and Provisional IRA members who may or may not still be members of the IRA. But the Provisional IRA itself has nothing to do with AAD or vice-versa. Confused? You bet.

The only thing we can be sure of is that the PSNI believes the Provisional IRA still exists, hence the sentence: “….some members and associates of AAD are, or were, members of the Provisional IRA.”

The verb “are” is damning. (This is beginning to sound like a Bill Clinton press conference on Monica Lewinsky!)

Go figure.

UPDATE TWO

PSNI close in on Kevin McGuigan murder suspects

PSNI close in on Kevin McGuigan murder suspects

UPDATE THREE

Thanks to a simple misunderstanding and a communications foul-up, I was under the impression that there were two statements from PSNI Det Supt Kevin Geddes, when in fact there was one. My apologies for that.

This means that Mr Geddes was all along trying to say that while Provisional IRA members were involved in the McGuigan killing, the Provisional IRA was not. Square that circle if you can.

At the same time his statement clearly implied that a) the Provisional IRA does still exist and b) its members happily co-operate with dissident republicans opposed to the peace process and the ceasefire in an organisation that targets people accused of killing senior IRA members, viz one Jock Davison.

In other words determined opponents of the peace process work with and do favours for republicans whose leadership they abhor.

This is all so full of unasked and unanswered questions, as well as simply unsustainable propositions, not to mention the massive implications for the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement that it is difficult to know where to begin.

All that one can say with confidence is that Det Supt Geddes, and his press office advisers, have made a bad situation very much worse. Anywhere else and heads would roll. But that will not happen.

In a move that, intentionally or not, will rescue the power-sharing government from an immediate crisis over responsibility for the killing last week of ex-IRA activist, Kevin McGuigan, the PSNI has, as was widely predicted, claimed that ‘former members’ of the IRA were responsible for the slaying.

In a statement to the media this afternoon, the PSNI’s Det Supt Kevin Geddes said that members of a group calling itself ‘Action Against Drugs’, composed of dissident and former mainstream IRA members – and separate from the IRA – were responsible:

It is my assessment that Action Against Drugs are a group of individuals who are criminals, violent dissident republicans and former members of the Provisional IRA. They are dangerous, they are involved in violence and extortion of the nationalist and republican communities.

My assessment is that this is a separate group from the Provisional IRA. I have no information at this stage to say whether [the killing] was sanctioned at a command level or not.

The PSNI claim that the group ‘Action Against Drugs’ is a front for dissidents and ex-Provos is a new twist on the story and will be greeted with considerable scepticism on the streets of Belfast.

Not least of the questions Mr Geddes’ claim prompts is why on earth dissidents would want to do the mainstream IRA a favour by exacting revenge against the accused killer of one of their esteemed colleagues, Jock Davison who was allegedly killed by Mr McGuigan.

This suggests that the PSNI may next insinuate that the killing of Mr McGuigan was actually a plot to embarrass and cause political difficulties for Sinn Fein and the peace process by creating circumstances in which the mainstream IRA would get the blame..

In a place well used to conspiracy theories this one is in a place of its own.

One question that demands a fuller answer is Supt Geddes’ unexplained reference to “a command level”, as in: “I have no information at this stage to say whether [the killing] was sanctioned at a command level or not.”

What command level? Action against Drugs’ command level or the Provisional IRA’s command level or the dissidents command level? He doesn’t say. But he need to clarify this asap. If it is the Provisional IRA’s command level then this is an admission the IRA still exists, when it was supposed to have disappeared a decade ago.

One thing is for sure, the story ain’t over. Why, The Irish Times may soon be obliged to put its own staff reporter on the story!

McGuigan Killing: With No Evidence, The Irish Times Calls It ‘A Feud Between Former IRA Members’

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”.

Irish_Times

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.

PA

The McGuigan Killing: Here We Go Again, Cowardly Cops, Lying Provos And A ‘Helpful’ Media

“Unhelpful”. That’s the buzz word today in the wake of last night’s “ruthless and premeditated” murder of Kevin McGuigan in the East Belfast enclave of Short Strand.

The words “ruthless and premeditated” are not mine but those of PSNI investigating officer DCI John McVea. That’s rather like saying World War II was long and bloody. Pretty obvious to even the most dim-witted.

That’s really all that Mr McVea had to say about the killing except he added a warning to the media that it would be “reckless and dangerous” to speculate about IRA involvement in the McGuigan killing.

Why reckless and dangerous? The dogs in the streets of Belfast know full well who killed Kevin McGuigan. Aren’t their owners allowed to talk about it? After all they’ve been here before. There are no surprises in Belfast.

In the winter of 1995 and early 1996 four young men were gunned to death in republican areas of Belfast and Lurgan, Co Armagh.

Their killers advertised themselves as Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD) but everyone knew they were really the Provisional IRA in macabre drag, flexing their muscles as patience with the British over their handling of the 1994 ceasefire dwindled. By no coincidence the ceasefire collapsed at Canary Wharf a month after the last DAAD killing.

Those four guys died not because they were flooding Turf Lodge or the Ormeau Road with white powder but to send a message to the British: “They haven’t gone away, you know!” And everyone knew it; now the same people who peddled the lie about those killings, or told us that it would be “reckless and dangerous” to speculate about the culprits, are at it again today.

First there was DCI McVea; then we had Sinn Fein pols Alex Maskey and someone called Niall O Donnaghaile (Maskey the old scarred, gnarled face of the Provos, Niall the new, younger, smoother version) outside Belfast City Hall crying crocodile tears for the McGuigan family but with the same message as DCI McVea.

Alex Maskey and Niall O Donnaghail - The two faces of Sinn Fein with the same warning to the media: don't be unhelpful!

Alex Maskey and Niall O Donnaghail – The two faces of Sinn Fein with the same warning to the media: don’t be unhelpful!

Three times Maskey told a video interviewer from The Belfast Telegraph that people, i.e. the media, should not “speculate” about the culprits.  It would be “unhelpful”, he said to speculate about IRA involvement; cautioning the media again “not to speculate” he waved this final, almost threatening red flag: “….it would be unhelpful and unwelcome to enter into speculation”. Speculate if you dare.

This is also is a repeat of the refrain heard at the time of the DAAD killings some twenty years ago, and that word “unhelpful” repeated again and again, hammered into the brains of Belfast’s hapless media folk.

So why is it unhelpful to wonder openly if the IRA had a hand or part in the McGuigan killing, to pursue speculation that is rife in the city and that was, indubitably, the very first thought to enter the heads of most television viewers when the news was flashed across their screens last night?

Is it because to tell the truth about last night’s violence, or even to speculate about it would expose an even more unpalatable untruth: that the peace process is based on a lie, that an armed IRA, ready when necessary to use violence still exists, and that all those involved in making the subsequent political arrangement work know this full well but can’t say so openly for fear of admitting their culpability, greed, ambition, stupidity?

I will let you, dear reader, answer that question. But I do know that all these warnings not to be “unhelpful” work with the media, or at least most of them. Those who follow the warnings prosper and are given access to those who feed them the lies, a front seat at the circus ring, up close with the clowns; those who don’t will be marginalised and demonised, a walking warning of what can happen when you become “unhelpful”.

If you don’t believe me, then scan today’s internet edition of The Irish Times, Ireland’s paper of record, for a single mention, never mind follow up of the McGuigan murder. (The Irish Times finally filed a story at 17:31 pm)

That’s why I am here, in Broome County, New York, USA and not Belfast. Life is too short for such shit.