“But this is the new dispensation…”

The Ireland correspondents of the Times and the Guardian have noted the political reaction to the investigation into the killing of Paul Quinn, and the Irish Times front page report is worth noting – not least for a comparison between the no evidence “at this stage” of IRA links comment attributed, by the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, to PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde and the Garda sources quoted in the text. But there is also a report inside the paper worth extracting from – see below the fold.The detail from the Irish Times front page report

However, senior Garda sources, who spoke to The Irish Times last night, said intelligence on Mr Quinn’s killing suggested he was murdered by people who have previously been members of the Provisional IRA after he clashed with former members of that organisation.

“We don’t have anything to say it was sanctioned, it was more local justice being dished out, but it did involve former members [of the Provisional IRA],” said one senior source.

Gardaí still believe the dead man was killed after he refused to leave his home in Cullyhanna following a fight with a prominent republican there and the son of another republican figure.

They are satisfied Mr Quinn was involved with a gang who were laundering green diesel in Monaghan and smuggling it into the North for sale as regular fuel.

However, sources said no evidence had emerged to link those activities to his murder.

According to DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, Sir Hugh told him yesterday that, this early in the investigation, the Garda and the PSNI “have not been able to draw the conclusion that has been made by the family that this was the work of the IRA”.

And from Gerry Moriarty’s report [subs req]

It seems reasonable to assume that those who murdered Quinn are known to quite a number of people. For instance, the two men who were understood to have been forced to help lure the victim to the farm in Co Monaghan, and were themselves assaulted, must be in a position to provide police with considerable detail about the killing.

But this is south Armagh and notwithstanding the recent breakthrough of Murphy inviting senior PSNI officers to Crossmaglen to discuss antisocial activity in the area will the old tradition of local omerta continue to apply? Pressure will fall on Sinn Féin to in turn exert pressure on those with evidence to go to the police. Those with such knowledge may feel caught between a rock and a very dangerous place. The phrase “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” comes to mind, especially in the context of the current dispute over the status of the killers.

But this is the new dispensation. This is a test of whether policing can work in the Borderlands. If it doesn’t then we could end up with a situation similar to that pertaining after the murder of Robert McCartney: then the so-called dogs in the street knew who was responsible but so far no one has been convicted of his murder.

Numerous people spoke to the PSNI in relation to McCartney but the necessary evidence to nail the killers was not forthcoming. If the same applies after Quinn’s death then notwithstanding the great political progress to date the question will be asked, does the writ of criminality run in south Armagh or do republicans have the influence to help bring killers to book?

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  • Belfast Gonzo

    It’s becoming more and more clear that there will be no political consequences for this murder. The analysis is now shifting on to whether there will be support for the police investigation within the community. Either way, it’s no longer stick to beat SF with, since they’ve already said their piece, and it’s good enough for those who matter.

  • Mark Farlighter

    I agree alot with Moriarty’s piece.

    I condemn completly this killing and it is difficult to imagine how anyone would go about such an act.

    I wasn’t surprised but and I think we will see it again.

    I make no assertions as to the background of the deceased but I think that over the last ten years some young men in border areas have been trying to sweep aside republicans in order to develope organised crime.

    Unfortunately, for twenty year olds, mere children when the IRA were active, the IRA are toothless politically castrated 40+ year olds.

    Nationalists in the border area have 3 choices, 1. put faith in the IRA’s dwindling capacity to police the border, 2. surrender all authority to whatever 20+ year old impreza driving ‘Don’ who has found a niche or 3. take Conor Murphy’s advice and put faith in the PSNI.

    The reality is that the third is the only option.

    However the reality is also that the guerilla army of yester year are not going to be publically humilited, and beat round Crossmaglen square without responding in kind.

    Again I condemn the killing but I do hope that certain young people realise that no matter how hard you are, they’ll get you.

  • Garibaldy

    Have to say that if PSF calls for the people responsible to be handed over to the police by anyone with information, AND, should any of them turn out of be party members or supporters, expels/bans them from meetings, then I’m not sure what more people can expect them to do. I don’t think they can or should be held to account for every action by people once associated with them.

    That, however, would be very different if there emerged some sort of concerted campaign of intimidation against opponents of PSF.

  • Have to say that if PSF calls for the people responsible to be handed over to the police by anyone with information, AND, should any of them turn out of be party members or supporters, expels/bans them from meetings, then I’m not sure what more people can expect them to do

    What Garibaldy said.

  • Slieve Gullion

    Garibaldy, We have come a long way with Sinn Fein exhorting people to go to the police, but this really needs to be more than a ritualistic formula. We don’t want a re-run of McCartney with lots of people going to the police and saying precisely nothing of evidential value. And it is not unreasonable to expect more from Sinn Fein. When they took their new direction on policing, they left behind a significant Provisional infrastructure which needs to be publicly, politically dismantled. Former members involved in organised crime are still able to call on the loyalty of others, still able to dominate whole communities, still able to get their way by nudge and wink reinforced with occasional assault and battery. The Ireland of Equals must start with a Cullyhanna of equals, where nobody dies because they crossed the wrong man or family.

  • I Wonder

    Those most vociferous about this killing do not normally give a damn for the rights of “Fenians” nor do they have any sympathy for the democratically expressed wish of NI – power sharing.

    The interest is entirely cynical and an attempt to use the death of a young man (lovely stuff!)to manipulate the more nervous element of grass roots DUP support.

    In answer to the rhetorical question about what people would expect SF to do in the event that some members are involved in this despicable killing, this could be determined by invoking the standard of the reasonable “man on the Aughnacloy omnibus” argument.

    There is, however, no reasoning with the unreasonable.

  • Garibaldy

    Slieve Gullion,

    I understand what you are saying about the infrastructure left behind. But if the former local unit from somewhere gets together and beats somebody to death, what do you expect PSF to be able to about that? It can (a) get other former units to threaten the first former unit to hand themselves over to the police or face the consequences; which would not be acceptable. Or (b) it can condemn the action, call on people to give information to the police, and seek the conviction of those involved. This is why in my original comment I put the ‘AND’ in capital letters – if any PSF aligned people are involved, and it takes the added step of ostracising them, then it goes beyond any ritualised condemnation to an actual active repudiation of those involved. What else could it do short of the unacceptable option (a)?

  • Lurker

    Questions: Is Slab Murphy still regarded by the police as a crime lord, smuggling diesel?
    Is he still a member of the army council of the IRA?
    If the answer to these questions is no, then the executive is safe.

  • Slieve Gullion

    How about (c) turn the bastards in? Sinn Fein is staffed from top to bottom by people who know where the bodies are buried, at the very least in the figurative sense. Until very recently the Privisional Movement was a seamless entity, and there are plenty of SF members who know exactly how this sort of thing works. All over South Armagh there are wise Sinn Fein heads nodding and running through in their minds the list of who would have been on that little job on Saturday. These know who owned the lorry and the diesel in it, they know who calls the shots (yes, figuratively) around Cullyhanna and the immediately adjoining areas of Monaghan. In every townland and village there is an acknowledged chieftain or two to whom people defer. There is no way on earth ex-Provo freelancers would take on a mission like this without covering their backs, getting the nod, keeping the powerful ones in the loop. At a moral level I can’t honestly see how Sinn Fein can just walk away leaving a leaderless army in the field and claim the looting and mayhem is nothing to do with them.

  • Garibaldy


    If PSF members can they should give names to the police. But I suspect very strongly that the police know exactly who did this already. The point is to get evidence that can convict them in court. That is a matter of eyewitness testimony and forensics surely.

    I would be less confident that PSF would be in a position to say that the iron bars are hidden in such and such a place than it would be able to say X is the most likely suspect.

    There are going to be major problems in nationalist areas for years to come regarding anti-social behaviour and criminality, especially in places like west Belfast. People have had four decades of disdaining authority and that attitude cannot be changed overnight. Significant sections of the upcoming generations are likely to regard PSF statements on community responsibility, crime etc with the same attitude that their parents regarded those coming from the SDLP or the RUC. It’s going to be a massive problem, with no easy solution. Personally, I’d increase the size of the police again and make sure they do their jobs properly, but either is not very likely.

  • Sean

    At a moral level I can’t honestly see how Sinn Fein can just walk away leaving a leaderless army in the field and claim the looting and mayhem is nothing to do with them

    They walked away because they had to, they walked away at the behest of the unionists. They kept as much control structure as they could and thats still too much for the unionists. Imagine what might be if the army council was disbanded as per unionist request.

    And just for the record Sinn Fein never ran the army or left it leaderless the army did that themselves

  • Garibaldy


    You’re right. The military ran the political wing.

  • Slieve Gullion

    ‘And just for the record Sinn Fein never ran the army or left it leaderless the army did that themselves.’

    Sean, that was true until about 1987 or so, but after that the political Sinn Fein leadership gradually took over complete control of the Army – often simply with a high degree of personnel overlap. I think the definitive turning point was the arrival of the big Libyan arms shipments, which were not shipped to the north. They were dumped in the south, for the very good reason that the quartermaster has the ultimate controlling sanction in a guerilla army. Through the 90s they were completely indivisible – Canary Wharf was a political decision for political ends. For the same reasons I must accept that they have little or no control or sanction over former Provo IRA members today, now that the arms are gone. But they did create the monster. They did recruit some of the most thuggish elements in society and call them heroes. Sinn Fein did preside over the sort of militaristic community control that it is not unreasonable to call fascistic. And they still defend them when caught. They still call Slab a good republican and poor victimised farmer when the state of his assets is a matter of public record. They still run out the old ‘heavy-handed policing’ routine when the PSNI raid Jonesboro market and cart off lorryloads of counterfeit goods, and they do the same when the diesel launderers get raided. Sinn Fein is still blessing and virtually licensing lawlessness at local level, and to be honest I can almost understand it, because they must do their u-turn by slow degrees. But let there be no doubt – no matter who killed Quinn, he was a victim of the lawlessness that Sinn Fein has blessed.

  • Sean

    The lawlessness was there before the advent of Sinn Fein or even the Provos all they did was channel it. You can not create hard men they are hard by nature. And if any one is to blame for the current generation of hard men it would not be the IRA or SF it would be the loyalists and the RUC and the english army. They are hard men in reaction to hard lives being pushed around and choosing to push back.

    I know call me a chearleader if you want but its flat denial to say anything other than the IRA was created by the unionists

    As for what to do about them? What can be done about them? A cull? Thats about the only effective treatment so who’s up for the former provo cull? Better question who’s for the trying? They pushed back the whole english army what makes you think they are scared of you or there former officers commanding?

    Sieve it was the unionist community that insisted on the abandoning of the army structures, it was the unionists who made the IRA necesary, let’s see what they do about them now

  • The Dubliner

    “We don’t have anything to say it was sanctioned, it was more local justice being dished out, but it did involve former members [of the Provisional IRA],” said one senior [Gardaí] source.

    It looks like the Gardaí are tripped over their words in spinning for the PSF mafia.

    The Gardaí don’t see why it is self-contradicting to say that the murder was sanctioned, presumably by the Army Council, and to say also that the criminals who carried out the murder were “former” members of PIRA. If they are “former” members then the issue of them being authorised by the Army Council doesn’t arise since, rather obviously, the Army Council doesn’t ‘authorise’ the actions of former members who are not accountable to it.

    Likewise, spinning a savage murder of a dozen thugs beating a man to death with iron bars as “local justice” is an utterly disgusting use of the word.

    The Chief of Staff of PIRA’s Army Council, Thomas Murphy, controls the fuel smuggling racket in this border area. All membes of PIRA must take orders from him, including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. It is worth tens of millions annually to the PIRA organised crime cartel, as the Army Council’s former members Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are fully aware. Still, the mafia must be left in place at the Executive, so they’re not responsible for this murder – and besides, even if they, were, they weren’t because it wasn’t “sanctioned” and it was “former members” and “we don’t so that sort of lucrative thing anymore, you know.”

  • The Dubliner

    Just to make that point less obscure: “sanctioned” is cancelled out by the members being “former.” Ergo, if the Gardaí are sincere in believing the members to be former, why are they mentioning the then irrelevant issue of sanctioning?

  • New Yorker

    The local MP has information on this incident. Has he gone to the PSNI for a full interview?

  • Granni Trixie

    This atrocity reminds me …whatever happened to…the unfinished (usually young) people “exiled” by the IRA (not to mention those with leftovers due to “punishment beatings”)?
    Who is going to speak up for them in ‘dealing with the past’ talk?

  • Siphonophore

    Slieve Gullion,

    the PIRA was stood down and disbanded, the only element retained was the Army Council. So unless you are asserting that the Army Council beat this guy to death there isn’t a link to the PIRA let alone SF.

  • andy

    There is far too much equivocation here. What do you want the republican movement to do? “hand the bastards in” – no offence to SG butwhat the fuck does that mean? Give information to the police? Do you reckon the security forces dont know who did this?
    Given any applied pressure on witnesses etc by the provos would kind of undermine their testimony – what steps should they actually take?

    Or does it mean they should be rounded up and dropped off at the police station? Which is just silly.

    Dubliner – valid points about former/sanctioned. Although even given the context that we know from the family and jim mcallister – I cant imagine how anyone particularly senior in the IRA would have to approve this.

    Garibaldy – I think everything you’ve said is right on the money.

  • New Yorker


    The local MP going to the PSNI for a full interview would be a good start. It would encourage others to come forward. The PSNI need evidence and/or confessions.

  • Sean

    Hard men might shop you they arent going to come in and give themselves up and beg the courts forgiveness and other than giving voice to the dogs on the streets voice, what are they really going to give the police that they dont already have

  • 0b101010

    “The PSNI need evidence and/or confessions.

    In all seriousness, the PSNI have to pull the finger out and work out how to solve crime beyond the old days of waiting for someone in the know to call 0800 666 999.

  • andy

    that would be a good start or the end of it? – what else would he have to do?
    Because as I see it you would only go for a full interview if you knew something material to the crime- which would definitely be picked up by some as he was in some way involved. After all, uninvolved people rarely randomly turn themselves up at police stations giving full interviews.
    It would also be accused of being a publcity stunt – given that some have accused Murphy of being unreasonable by denying republican involvement!

    Interesting to see the range of opinions on a couple of blogs. Generally speaking I have even seen people who are hostile to SF giving them a bit of breathing space – at least for the time being.

  • Slieve Gullion

    For such a topic, this is a highly reasonable debate which rises well above the usual slagging. Yet it must be said that there is a fundamental contradiction between the categorical denials of republican involvement coming from Sinn Fein leaders and what we know here on the ground. Conor Murphy’s denial may be technically or even legally sound – no paid up members in good standing, no sanction, no order given, no permission to use movement infrastructure, etc. But given the equally categorical statement of the family, and the acknowledged reality that nothing on this scale could happen without the knowledge and tacit approval of significant people in the Provo family, the Garda assessment looks sound. And my basic point remains. The Provos could not have conducted one of the most successful guerilla wars in history without tight community control,and now that the war is over they have a duty to dismantle that control. If that community control is being used to further criminal enterprises – and it unquestionably is – then the duty to dismantle is even greater. If this involves dismantling some of the structures which underpin Sinn Fein’s electoral success, they will have some hard questions to ask themselves. We can only hope they come up with the right answer – but they might be surprised at the amount of goodwill in South Armagh if they can find their courage to do it. We might all ponder that at tomorrow’s funeral.

  • Mark Fartlighter

    Slieve Gullion,

    I cannot see how any control can be maintained over either reminants of a guerilla army or former member of such armies, or even people with some links without weapons.

    The political demand was for ‘total decommisioning’, therefore it is no longer in the power of the republican leadership to control any and all ‘followers’ or the people who are putting it up to them on a local level.

    Young man, murdered, undesputible link with organised crime, call PSNI or the Gardaí Síochána.

    There is no other option, aside from sending people other with sticks – political disaster – cycle of tit for tat – pointless.

  • New Yorker


    Thanks for your reply. It seems to me that political representatives should show leadership in such situations. If the MP goes to the police, others who might know something would be less reluctant. From a distance this appears to be a major safety issue. What good is government if it cannot take all measures to assure the safety of all its citizens?