22 May 2006

Republicans turn against Martin McGuinness


(by Suzanne Breen, Sunday Tribune)

Supporters of four Belfast republicans on the run, after being convicted of abducting another republican, have accused the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin leadership of betrayal.

They said it was "disgraceful" that Martin McGuinness had called on the men to hand themselves over to the authorities. "They did what they did on the IRA leadership's orders. They're facing a big stretch in Maghaberry (prison). How many years in jail has Martin McGuinness done?" a supporter of the men said.

Grafitti saying 'F*** M McGuinness. Support the Tohill 4' has appeared on the nationalist lower Ormeau Road in south Belfast where friends and relatives of one of the men live.

Gerard McCrory, 34, Harry Fitzsimmons, 36, Liam Rainey, 32, and Thomas Tolan, 34, were due to appear in court a fortnight ago to be sentenced for the abduction of dissident republican Bobby Tohill in 2004. Sentences of between five and ten years each were expected.

Bench warrants have been issued for their arrest. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have appealed to them to give themselves up. "What they should clearly do is present themselves to face the charges they pleaded guilty on," McGuinness stated.

Another supporter of the men said: "These men didn't take a rush of blood to the head and decide to go out and kidnap Bobby Tohill. They were on an IRA operation, sanctioned by the Army Council.

"The same people who sent them out are now sh*tting on them because they want to get into government with Paisley. It's despicable. I don't know how Sinn Féin has the cheek to abandon and criminalise these men at the same time they commemorate the hunger-strikers."

Other sources told the Sunday Tribune that despite "serious tensions" with the leadership, the men are receiving financial assistance from the IRA.

"The leadership is against them being on the run but has no option but to look after them. There is contact with them and it's hoped they'll see sense and hand themselves in."

The failure of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to release photographs or descriptions of the men, or carry out searches to recapture them, is unusual. A police spokesman said: "The PSNI will take whatever action is deemed necessary and appropriate. We do not intend to detail further."

Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, and later the Independent Monitoring Commission, blamed the Provisionals for Tohill's abduction.

But IRA membership charges against the men were withdrawn because the organisation wasn't specified as being in breach of its ceasefire under law.

Tohill had a history of clashes with the Provisional IRA and, just before his abduction, had called its director of intelligence, the man who later planned the Northern Bank robbery, a criminal.

Tohill was abducted from a Belfast bar and bundled into a van which was later stopped by police. CCTV footage showed the four men emerging from the van wearing disposable boiler suits and Tohill, naked from the waist up, covered in blood.

May 22, 2006

This article appeared in the May 21, 2006 edition of the Sunday Tribune.

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