02 May 2006

IRA snubs priest in talks with 'nutting squad' victim's family


(Sharon O'Neill, Irish News)

A priest who played a key role in securing the IRA's ceasefire has been snubbed by the organisation over his efforts to help the family of a republican shot dead as an informer.

The Irish News can reveal that Fr Gerry Reynolds was helping relatives of Anthony McKiernan as they tried to prove his assassination as a Special Branch mole may have been carried out to protect other agents.

On the night he was abducted and killed in 1988 McKiernan was to meet Freddie Scappaticci, a senior member of the Provisionals' internal security unit known as the 'nutting squad' who fled his home almost three years ago after being unmasked as an informer.

Behind-the-scenes contact between McKiernan's family and the IRA was reopened in January after The Irish News highlighted the case.

Relatives of the murdered man asked Clonard Monastery Redemptorist priest Fr Reynolds to mediate.

"Two weeks after the story was published republican representatives came to my door. I took them to be IRA," McKiernan's daughter Sharon Murtagh said.

"One of them was the same guy dealing with the case four years ago [who failed to get back]."

Although the IRA said it wanted the matter swiftly resolved, the family have heard nothing more from the organisation, despite passing on inquest documents.

Fr Reynolds, pictured above, refused to comment when asked whether he had contacted the IRA, only confirming that the family had approached him.

But it can be revealed that the Provisionals rejected his services.

"The IRA have told him there is no place for Fr Gerry or the Church in it, that they have been in touch with us themselves," Ms Murtagh said.

"We wanted him to be present to give us a fair hearing. I thought if we had him on board they [the IRA] wouldn't mess us about any more."

McKiernan (44), a bomb-maker, was at one time the IRA's 'officer commanding' in the Markets area of south Belfast.

Scappaticci also lived in the area for a while, while another unmasked British agent, Denis Donaldson, came from nearby Short Strand.

McKiernan was involved in IRA activity in south Armagh and was highly active before his murder.

Ms Murtagh said a senior IRA man told them shortly after the murder that he was confident McKiernan had not been an informer.

"He said there were a lot of people under suspicion around this area and he himself had been taken away for four days and interrogated," she said.

"We believe he [McKiernan] could have known things about other IRA members, who were probably informers, and was on to them."

May 2, 2006

This article appeared first in the May 1, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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