08 April 2006

We can still arrest alleged leader of IRA, senior gardai claim

Irish Independent

Tom Brady and Diarmaid Mac Dermott

AN eight-years-old Garda warrant for the arrest of the alleged former head of the Provisional IRA in the South has been cancelled in court.

But senior officers said last night they had the right to seek another warrant if they wanted to detain "Dickie" O'Neill.

Gardai believe O'Neill was in charge of the IRA's so-called southern command in the mid 1990s when Det-Gda Jerry McCabe was murdered during an abortive raid on a postal van at Adare, Co Limerick.

Shooting

It was alleged at the time that the murder had been carried out by a rogue unit who did not have sanction for the shooting.

Four members of the unit were subsequently convicted of killing Det-Gda McCabe.

They are currently serving sentences at The Grove bungalow complex within the grounds of Castlerea Prison.

O'Neill was later alleged to have stepped down from his IRA position and to have left the country. He is now believed to be living in Spain for several years.

The Special Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday cancelled an eight-year- old warrant for arrest on a charge of IRA membership The warrant had been there for eight years and was cancelled following an application by the DPP at an unscheduled sitting.

The warrant was issued in 1998 for the arrest of Gerard "Dickie" O'Neill, a native of Belfast, with an address at Cushlawn Park, Tallaght, on a charge of IRA membership on July 12, 1997 of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA, on July 12, 1997.

Prosecution solicitor Denis Butler told the court there would be no counsel appearance for Mr O'Neill.

Never executed

He said that the bench warrant for Mr O'Neill's arrest was issued by the court on March 18, 1998, and his instructions now were to have the warrant cancelled.

Det-Supt Diarmuid O'Sullivan of the Special Branch said the warrant was never executed and he was now applying to have it cancelled. Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court would cancel the warrant.

Garda officers said last night the option remained open to seek another warrant to detain O'Neill or look for his return to Ireland under an European arrest warrant.

If the old warrant had been executed, the main plank of the case against O'Neill would have been the evidence of a garda chief superintendent.

But he has retired from the force since the warrant was issued.

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