TOP IRA ENFORCER WILSON MET WITH ROBERT MCCARTNEY SISTERS IN PROVO MURDER PROBE

IRA enforcer OC Padraic Wilson charged with Provo membership charge

ONE-TIME IRA ENFORCER Padraic Wilson has faced a court on offences in relation to the murder of Robert McCartney in 2005.

Belfast Magistrates Court heard he met with the victim’s sisters in his role as a senior IRA man investigating the killing.

Padraic Wilson was once the leader of IRA prisoners in the Maze Prison in the late 1990s.

The 53-year-old appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court this morning charged with IRA membership and addressing a meeting to encourage support for the IRA.

A detective told Belfast Magistrates’ Court today  that although Mr Wilson is not charged directly in connection with the murder of Mr McCartney, the charges relate to an internal investigation by the IRA following the murder.

He met Robert McCartney’s sisters in his capacity as a member of the IRA’s Army Council who was conducting the investigation.

Opposing his application for bail, a detective from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch claimed there was a risk of re-offending and interference with witnesses.

He revealed that police have received six statements from Mr McCartney’s sisters and partner.

“It’s alleged that Mr Wilson and another unidentified person with the family in a capacity as members of the IRA, as representatives of the Army Council of the IRA,” said the detective.

He added: “That role was in carrying out an internal investigation into the murder.

“It is alleged that there were at least two meetings held with members of the family, Mr Wilson and another unknown person.”

The detective said the McCartney sisters claimed to have only known Wilson by his first name at the time of the alleged meetings.

Internet research led to them recently discovering his identity, the court was told.

Defence lawyer Peter Madden stressed that his client does not stand accused in relation to the killing itself.

“The allegations are that Mr Wilson, far from being involved in the murder, was part of the investigation into that murder to try to find out who was involved in that murder,” he said.

Mr Madden also questioned the IRA membership charge being brought on the word of witnesses.

“There are certain proofs in relation to membership of an unlawful organisation and that’s not one of them,” he argued.

The solicitor described Wilson as a married father-of-two who works as a political manager.

But it was claimed by the detective that his alleged previous position means he still has significant influence within sections of the community.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall held that there was a risk of possible interference and refused bail.

Wilson was remanded in custody to appear again by video-link on November 30.

Sinn Féin MLAs Gerry Kelly and Sue Ramsey were among party members in the public gallery during the court case.

Mr Kelly has demanded the immediate release of Padraic Wilson, calling the charge against him “bizarre”.

He said: “It is my firm view that these charges are politically motivated and driven by an old agenda within the PSNI fighting against policing change.

“Those behind this agenda need to be removed from policing before they inflict further damage on the peace process.

“This is not about bringing the killers of Robert McCartney to justice. It is in fact the opposite.”

Robert McCartney who was murdered by an IRA gang in January 2005

Mr McCartney, 33, was stabbed to death outside Magennis’s bar in Belfast.

His murder had major repercussions for Sinn Féin which, at the time, was involved in delicate political negotiations aimed at securing its support for the police.

Within hours of Mr McCartney’s death, it was claimed that IRA members had been involved after a fight – a claim rejected by Sinn Féin.

Mr McCartney’s family accused republicans of covering up what happened, and threatening witnesses. His sisters accused Sinn Féin and the IRA of obstructing efforts to bring their brother’s killers to justice.

They mounted a high-profile campaign that took them from the streets of the working class nationalist Short Strand area of Belfast to the White House, and even to Sinn Féin’s ard fheis in Dublin.

The IRA expelled three members over the murder and Sinn Féin subsequently suspended seven of its members.

In 2008, Terence Davison, 51, was acquitted of Mr McCartney’s murder and two other men were cleared of charges connected to the killing.

Wilson once acted as an IRA go-between on arms decommissioning with General John de Chastelain.

Wilson, a convicted terrorist, jailed in the early 1990s for 24 years over a failed bomb attack, was not present on the January, 2005 night when Mr McCartney was stabbed and beaten to death outside a city centre bar.

However, detectives believe that Wilson was a senior figure in the IRA team set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the savage murder outside Magennis’s pub close to the Markets district.

Wilson was taken from his west Belfast home on Wednesday to the PSNI’s serious crime suite in Antrim for questioning.

Last month, Wilson was one of our people named in court after a district judge lifted a banning order.

All four faced charges of membership of the IRA and other offences dating back more than a decade ago.

However, even though the banning order was lifted, not all the details of the charges in the case can be revealed.

A fifth man, who also faces membership charges cannot be named because of other legal matters.

Those named in court were:

Former IRA Belfast chief Seamus ‘Niker Max’ Finucane

* former IRA Belfast Brigade ‘OC’ Seamus ‘Niker Max’ Finucane, now 55, of Hawthorn Hill, who is described as a member of Sinn Fein and a ‘community worker’ in west Belfast. He is the brother of murder solicitor Pat Finucane;

* Padraic Wilson, who is currently Sinn Fein’s director of international affairs. He was at one time head of the IRA’s ‘Civil Administration Team’ in westBelfast. Police intelligence linked him to an IRA training operation of FARC rebels inColumbiaalmost a decade ago. RUC Special Branch agent Martin McGartland was summoned to meet him in the early 1990s at Sinn Fein’s Connolly House HQ in west Belfast only to be abducted and held against his will at a flat in Twinbrook, west Belfast;

Finucane and Wilson both face charges of IRA membership and arranging, addressing or assisting in the management of an IRA meeting.

A third man was 48-year-old Marty Morris, now with an address inLondon, who is also charged with membership of the IRA.

Two Belfast women are also facing charges.

They are:

* Agnes McCrory, 72, from Dermot Hill Road, west Belfast, who has been described as a former advice worker at the Falls Road Women’s Centre. Polic e intelligence has described McCrory as being at one stage ‘OC’ of Cumman na Mna, the female wing of the IRA;

* Briege Wright from Glassmullin Gardens, west Belfast. The 55-year-old was targeted in the early 1990s by Johnny Adair’s UFF when the loyalist murder gang left a bomb concealed inside a box of chocolates on her doorstep. She was targeted after a rogue British Army soldier supplied intelligence to the UFF on her IRA role based on an intelligence montage. Police believe Briege Wright was at one stage a senior member of Cumann na Mna.

Both McCrory and Wright, the sister of IRA ‘Disappeared’ Seamus Wright, are accused of membership of the IRA, and arranging, addressing or assisting in the management of an IRA meeting.

The two women along with Seamus Finucane are also charged accused of unlawfully forcing a person, who cannot be identified, to co-operate with an IRA investigation.

Lifting the restrictions, district judge Fiona Bagnall agreed with the BBC’s argument that open justice was a cornerstone of the criminal judicial system.

Said District Judge Bagnall: “I am lifting the reporting restrictions on the matters before the magistrates court.”

What incensed Robert McCartney’s family was the fact that known Sinn Fein members, who had put their names forward as local election candidates, appeared to have seen nothing of the savage attack.

They included Cora Groogan, (pictured first on the left) and Deirdre Hargey, then aged 23 and another rising female in the party.

Mr McCartney’s family accused Sinn Fein of covering up the fact that city council candidate Hargey and Assembly hopeful Groogan were in the bar the night of bloody attack.

Like Ms Hargey, Ms Groogan said also did not witness anything in the bar and later made a full statement to her solicitor.

It prompted an appeal by Catherine McCartney for any other party members who were in the bar to disclose what they saw.

“Some of these people don’t have a problem with the police, they just pretend they do,” she added.

Another McCartney sister, Paula, said at the time that in her opinion the situation “stinks of a cover-up” as it took Ms Groogan six weeks to come forward and make a statement.

She said Ms Groogan had a duty to present any evidence she may have before a court.

“The fact that it has been six weeks and she is only putting that statement in now, with the full knowledge that a solicitor is an inadequate way of gathering knowledge,” she said.

“She may feel that what she saw was unimportant – I think that is for the police to decide.

“I believe it was her public duty – she should have gone straight to the police with this.”

Ms McCartney added that the fact Miss Groogan had waited so long to come forward had led the family to wonder about how many Sinn Fein or IRA members were in the bar on the night of the murder.

Ms Groogan later confirmed that she had been among 70 people in Magennis’s bar on the night in question.

Sinn Féin and the IRA have always denied the McCartney sisters’ claims that they were preventing witnesses from coming forward.

However, at one stage the IRA offered to “shoot” a number of people in connection with McCartney’s death.

Brendan Devine, a friend of McCartney, was slashed across his throat and from chest to navel and miraculously survived.

Former Provo chief ‘Jock’ Davison

The IRA attackers were led by Jock Davison, the ‘Officer Commanding’ the IRA’s Northern Command and a one time high ranking Special Branch informant.

His uncle, Freddie Scappaticci was the British Army’s most high ranking agent inside the Provisional’s who was unmasked as ‘Stakeknife.’

Davidson’s 55-year-old uncle, Terry ‘Tight Trunks’ Davison, was later acquitted at a trial in June 2008 of murdering Mr McCartney. He was also acquitted of affray.

It is alleged that Mr McCartney was murdered after he refused to apologise for making a rude gesture in the bar to Terry ‘Tight Trunk’ Davison’s wife.

Two of ‘Tight Trunk’ Davison’s co-accused, Jim ‘Dim’ McCormick, 43, and 51-year-old Joseph Fitzpatrick, were also found not guilty of affray. Fitzpatrick was acquitted on a further charge of assault.

What incensed Robert McCartney’s family was the fact that known Sinn Fein members, who had put their names forward as local election candidates, appeared to have seen nothing of the savage attack.

They included Cora Groogan and Deirdre Hargey, then aged 23 and another rising female in the party.

Mr McCartney’s family accused Sinn Fein of covering up the fact that city council candidate Hargey and Assembly hopeful Groogan were in the bar the night of bloody attack.

Like Ms Hargey, Ms Groogan said also did not witness anything in the bar and later made a full statement to her solicitor.

Following the acquittal of ‘Tight Trunks’ Davison, ‘Dim’ McCormick and Joe Fitzpatrick, Sinn Fein said: “The murder of Robert McCartney was a brutal act which was widely and deservedly condemned. Sinn Fein has consistently supported the McCartney family in their campaign for justice. We have urged people with any information to bring it forward to the PSNI and will continue to do so.

“It is clear from both the trial evidence and statements from the police that a large number of witnesses have come forward. This is a criminal matter which needs to be dealt with by the police and the courts.”

Almost eight years after Robert McCartney’s brutal and cold blooded murder in a Belfast city centre street, no one has yet been convicted of his killing or even with withholding information about the attack.

 

 

 

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