One paper paying particular attention to the aftermath of the co-ordinated raids on Thursday is the Sunday Times. Today’s edition carries a lengthy article – including details from Murphy’s failed libel case – in which they note, “This game is being played for high stakes. Noel Conroy, the garda commissioner, and Sir Hugh Orde, the PSNI chief constable, the next day promoted the raid as a showcase for a coming era of cross-border co-operation.” and the Sunday Times points out, in the accompanying editorial, that “A show of strength on a border farm plays well in the media for a day, but the real proof must come from the recovery of assets and from the prosecution of those involved. The move to shut down “Slab” Murphy has been too long coming, and the delays have cost lives. This must not be a false dawn.”
At the end of the article is a reminder of one of the reasons for their interest.. the still out-standing legal bill for the Sunday Times defense in Murphy’s failed libel case –
Murphy: for the record
Thomas “Slab” Murphy owes The Sunday Times more than £600,000 (€870,000) for legal fees as a result of a disastrous 12-year libel battle he pursued. He lost and was branded by an Irish jury as a man of worthless reputation who plotted murder. The newspaper will hope to recover some of its costs from assets seized by the British or Irish authorities.
On June 30, 1985 The Sunday Times published an article entitled “Portrait of a check-in terrorist” in which Murphy was identified as head of the IRA’s northern command. The piece said that he had helped to select terrorists for a bombing campaign against 12 British seaside resorts.
Two years later Murphy sued for libel in Dublin. In 1990 the trial was abandoned on technical grounds. When it was reheard later that year, Murphy lost. He appealed to the Supreme Court, which in 1996 ordered a retrial. The retrial, in May 1998, lasted nine days. It took the jury less than one hour to conclude that the newspaper had established that Murphy was a terrorist who had directed bombings and murder. He appealed for a retrial but dropped his case in 1999.