The Irish News reports today that the Life Sentence Review Commission has released Máirtín’s mate, Ronald McCartney, despite the then Secretary of State Shaun Woodward having revoked his release licence in 2008 “as a result of information received from police that he presented a serious risk to the public.”
The Irish News report includes references from Maghaberry Prison governor Fred Caulfield of his “very positive view” of McCartney’s relationship with loyalist and republican prisoners in Maghaberry as well as former trade union chief Joe Bowers hopes that McCartney could be employed by Messines Fellowship – a cross-community group which Bowers and McCartney are reported to have worked together on – if he was released.
From the report
The [Life Sentence Review Commission] said it decided to free McCartney as a result of his commitment to non-violence and his “extensive involvement” in cross-community projects.
“The panel, having considered the evidence and submissions on behalf of the Department of Justice and Mr McCartney respectively, is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public from serious harm that Mr McCartney be confined,” it said.
Mr McCartney said he was “delighted to be free” and just “wants to get on with my life”.
In 2008 McCartney, and others, had been charged with “conspiring together and with others to make, with a view to gain for themselves or another, unwarranted demands for payment of monies in the sum of £150,000 with menaces”.
The alleged victims were two businessmen the courts were told were Sinn Féin supporters.
One of those businessmen told the court on January 2009
The businessman told the jury he was accused of using the IRA’s name to raise millions of pounds for his own gain.
He insisted there was “absolutely no truth” in the allegation and said he was left “completely devastated, shocked and confused… because for the last so many years of my life I had assisted Sinn Fein and had known many Sinn Fein members very well”.
He said he had become involved with the Wolfe Tone Society in London, described as a “support group for Sinn Fein”, after moving from Belfast to London in his early twenties.
His duties included “organising vehicles and commissioning drivers” for “senior party members and officials,” he said.
[McCartney] claimed that he had been attempting to patch up a dispute between a bankrupt businessman called Declan O’Hara and one of the alleged victims. McCartney told Southwark Crown Court that O’Hara had been so furious with the man — who had Sinn Fein connections — that he had blackmailed the party. He claimed that O’Hara had threatened to contact the DUP with false information about Sinn Fein which would be potentially damaging to the entire political settlement.
McCartney said he decided to threaten the businessmen in a bid to alert senior Sinn Fein members so that the problem would be resolved “within the republican family”. McCartney said: “This was a risky strategy. “I believed he (O’Hara) has suffered from mental illness, and was very dangerous. I did not go to the police. “I advised him to seek psychiatric help.”
He added: “I had studied politics in Ireland for 40 years and I believed that this here had the potential to undermine the peace process. “I wrote a letter to a prominent republican with connections in the republican movement, and hoped that he would be angry and deal with it. “I believed that this here would be resolved internally within the republican family. It’s a high-risk strategy, it’s a stupid strategy , it was ham-fisted, but I believed it was the only thing that would work.”
As noted at the start of the second trial
In a threatening phone call, one of the businessmen, who once provided security for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, was told: “There has been an investigation and we know what you’re up to,” Southwark Crown Court heard. He was then told he would be sent a letter giving him instructions on what to do next.
Four days later both men received letters through the post, bearing the Irish Gaelic for the Provisional IRA – Oglaigh na h-Eireann – and signed with the organisation’s nom de guerre “PO’Neill”. The letters told the men that in a “prolonged and intensive investigation… it had been established that both of you have used our organisation for personal gain”. The former Sinn Fein supporter was accused of abusing the “position of trust” he once held.