Kevin Conway murder: “Local Sinn Fein Councillor John O’Dowd was under no illusions…”

Arrested in a hotel in Birmingham on Monday, following “a review of the original murder investigation by detectives attached to Serious Crime Branch”, a 45-year-old man from Lurgan, Gary Marshall, has been charged at Craigavon court, and released on bail, for the murder of Kevin Conway in 1998.  The News Letter report notes

Marshall, from Ennis Green in Lurgan, is accused of murdering 30-year-old Kevin Conway on a date unknown between February 16-19, 1998.

Having been kidnapped from his Lurgan home, the married father of four was found on February 17, his head hooded, hands tied behind his back and shot through the head on farmland at the Soldierstown Road near Aghalee.

Detectives arrested Marshall in Manchester last Monday after carrying out a review of the original RUC murder investigation.

Yesterday, Detective Sergeant Brown told the court he believed he could connect Marshall to the charge outlining how soil and fibre forensic evidence connected him to the murder.

He objected to bail on the grounds that Marshall might abscond as he is facing a murder charge.

DS Brown revealed that Marshall was arrested and questioned during the original investigation and refused to speak to police over the course of 20 interviews until forensic evidence was put to him.

A short 18 December UTV report adds

A detective said new forensic evidence links the 45-year-old to the killing. The court was told he had refused to answer any questions since his detention.

When he was being led from the dock to sign his bail conditions, which include surrendering his passport and reporting to the police daily, Marshall gave the thumbs up sign to his family and supporters including the republican campaigner Breandán Mac Cionnaith.

The Irish News report today includes the arguments about bail

Police yesterday objected to bail amid fears that Mr Marshall might try to abscond.

Mr Marshall’s solicitor pointed out that the risk of his client absconding was reduced by the fact that the of-fence qualified under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and that the maximum sentence his client could face would be two years.

District Judge Dunlop said “murder is a very serious crime indeed and the loss of someone’s life in circumstances where his hands are tied behind his back and he is shot in the head is extremely serious and the consequences for that man’s family live with them.”

However, the judge said he had to look at the case in the “context of the Good Friday agreement”, and he had decided that to his mind “any risk is best managed by admitting him to bail”. [added emphasis]

He released Marshall on his own bail of £1,000 with a cash surety of £5,000.

The case will next be before the court on January 22.

As a separate Irish News report reminds us,

The father of four had been a victim of an IRA punishment beating a decade earlier and had fallen foul of republicans on several occasions.

It is believed his murder had been ordered by the local unit of the IRA keen to settle old scores before the peace process was finalised.

Mr Conway’s murder received little in the way of media attention, with the news at the time dominated by the historic political negotiations that were at a crucial stage.

Sinn Féin played the killing down and claimed it was sectarian and the work of loyalist paramilitaries.

However, in the Lurgan area it was widely known that the murder had been carried out by the IRA and Gary Marshall, a brother of murdered republican Sam Marshall, was questioned by police at the time but released without charge.

CAIN provides a short time-line of events at the start of 1998 [scroll down]

Tuesday 27 January 1998 Second day of multi-party talks at Lancaster House in London. The British and Irish governments introduced a new discussion document on the proposed nature of cross border bodies. While the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Sinn Féin (SF) welcomed the document, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) rejected the proposals as a move back to the Framework Documents. The two governments said that it was now up to the parties to hammer out an agreement on the basis of the papers before them. Following the main session of the day, Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, went to Lancaster House in the evening to meet with all the parties and to urge them to engage with each other and to reach a compromise.

Tuesday 17 February 1998 A number of security sources blamed the Irish Republican Army (IRA) for the killing of Kevin Conway.

Friday 20 February 1998 Sinn Féin (SF) was expelled from the multi-party talks because of the assessment by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had been involved in the recent deaths of two men.  SF was told that it could re-enter the talks in two week if there was no further breach of the IRA ceasefire.

Monday 23 February 1998 The Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) rejoined the multi-party talks following the party’s suspension.

Thursday 12 March 1998 Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), had a meeting with Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister.

Monday 23 March 1998 Sinn Féin (SF) rejoined the multi-party talks following the party’s suspension and the break over the Saint Patrick’s Day holiday.

There’s a more detailed CAIN chronology of 1998 here.

An archived 1998 Associated Press report notes that Sinn Féin, unsuccessfully, “sought an injunction in the Dublin High Court to try to block the governments” excluding them from the talks in Feb 1998, “in accordance with the talks’ principles of adherence to nonviolence”.

Representatives of the north’s main pro-British paramilitary group were expelled last month because of those rules, but Sinn Fein leaders refused to go willingly. Instead they sought an injunction in the Dublin High Court to try to block the governments.

Sinn Fein’s case continued Thursday with lawyer Adrian Hardiman summarizing the party’s contention that Mowlam failed to provide any evidence proving IRA involvement in last week’s killings _ and that the American talks chairman, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, failed to defend Sinn Fein’s rights by accepting her inadequate indictment.

Lawyers for the Irish government, which wasn’t named by Sinn Fein as a defendant despite its joint decision-making role, argued that the case was unconstitutional, since Irish courts shouldn’t “trespass” into powers rightly held by the British and Irish governments.

Hansard records then Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam’s response to a written question on 23 March, about Sinn Fein’s re-admittance to the talks.

Mr Trimble:  To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to her answer of 11 March 1998, Official Report, column 251, what account she took of the involvement of the IRA in the murder of Kevin Conway in confirming the invitation to Sinn Fein to rejoin the peace talks on 6 March.  [34863]

Marjorie Mowlam: The invitation to rejoin the talks issued to Sinn Fein on 6 March took into account all aspects of the state of the IRA ceasefire.

By confirming the invitation to Sinn Fein, the two Governments demonstrated that they were satisfied the IRA ceasefire was being observed.

And we have that, earlier noted, Sinn Féin claim, from An Phoblacht on 26 February 1998

Meanwhile the death of Lurgan Catholic Kevin Conway has prompted media speculation as to who abducted and shot dead the 30 year old father of four on Wednesday 18 February. Local Sinn Fein Councillor John O’Dowd was under no illusions. In a statement he said, “I have made a number of inquiries surrounding the disappearance of Mr Conway. I am satisfied that loyalists are responsible for the killing. I am calling on RUC boss Flanagan to release the full facts surrounding who killed the Catholic father of four. The RUC boss is untypically hesitant to apportion blame in this as opposed to his eagerness in other recent killings.” [added emphasis]

That’s the now Northern Ireland Education Minister, John O’Dowd…  [But did he speak “to the IRA in his area”?! – Ed]  Or, indeed, “to one or two people in the area.”

[Some thing’s don’t change… – Ed]  Just a few things to keep in mind if you’re trying to deal with the past…

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