29 December 2005

Dignam killing probe

Daily Ireland

Human rights group concerned security forces did nothing to prevent death

Ciarán Barnes

The PSNI’s Historical Enquiry Team is to probe the killing of a Special Branch and British military informer after having files on his death sent to it by a respected human rights organisation.
British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW) is concerned that the security services may have had prior knowledge that the IRA was planning to kill Johnny Dignam, but did nothing to prevent his execution.
According to BIRW, this information would have been passed to the British military by the alleged IRA double agent Stakeknife, who is reported to have been a member of the IRA’s internal security unit, which was responsible for killing informants.
The naked bodies of Mr Dignam and two friends, Gregory Burns and Aidan Starrs, were found within a ten-mile radius in south Armagh on July 1, 1992.
In an initial statement, the IRA said the Portadown men were killed because of their involvement in the murder of Mr Burns’ girlfriend, Margaret Perry, the previous year.
The statement said Ms Perry discovered Mr Burns was working as an informant and that, because of this, he had her killed by Mr Dignam and Mr Starrs.
In a second statement, the IRA said that after being arrested by the RUC in connection with the murder, Dignam and Starrs agreed to work for Special Branch.
The organisation also produced audio tapes of the men confessing their roles as informers prior to being shot.
In its last monthly report, BIRW expresses concerns not only about the murder of Dignam, but the deaths of Burns, Starrs and Ms Perry.
It notes that the PSNI’s Historic Enquiry Team is now responsible for investigating killings connected to the British military agent Stakeknife.
In light of this, BIRW director Jane Winter confirmed her organisation has sent a file on John Dignam to detectives.
She said: “BIRW is concerned that no one has ever been brought to book for any of these four murders, which may have been preventable owing to the prior knowledge by both army intelligence and Special Branch.”
At the beginning of 2005, the parents of Johnny Dignam, Pat and Irene Dignam, called for a public enquiry into claims their son was sacrificed in order to protect a British army double agent.
Speaking to a Sunday newspaper, Irene Dignam said: “I need to know if these allegations are true.
“If they are, then Johnny’s death could and should have been prevented.
“I want the truth. I want to know if the authorities abandoned my son, and let him be killed, in order to protect other individuals.”

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