Belfast Telegraph

Victim's niece furious after 'on-the-run' IRA murder suspect named as new Donegal mayor

By Leona O'Neill

The niece of an IRA victim has said she is "shocked" that the Sinn Fein councillor once accused of involvement in the murder of her uncle is set to become the new Mayor of Donegal.

Donegal councillor Gerry McMonagle is set to take the top job, that of cathaoirleach (chair) of Donegal County Council, on June 14.

He has been Mayor of Letterkenny twice already.

Back in 2012, DUP MP Jim Shannon used parliamentary privilege to accuse Mr McMonagle of the IRA murder of part-time UDR man Hugh 'Lexie' Cummings in 1982.

The 39-year-old, from Castlederg, died after a Ford Cortina pulled up alongside his vehicle and riddled it with bullets as he drove home for lunch from the menswear shop where he worked in the Tyrone town.

A week later, Gerry McMonagle, who is from Strabane, was arrested and remanded in custody until he was brought to trial a year later.

He was released because papers were not properly countersigned and was promptly rearrested as he left court.

After being released for a second time, Mr McMonagle travelled over the border, moving to Donegal where he became a Sinn Fein councillor and later Mayor of Letterkenny.

He will take the chain of office at Donegal County Council later this month in a move that Mr Cumming's niece Shelley Gilfillan says is "shocking".

"I was outraged when he was made Mayor of Letterkenny and this is worse again," she said.

"As far as I am concerned, he was suspected of my uncle's murder and to have him promoted once again is just disgraceful.

"My uncle Lexie was murdered and I have been campaigning for a long time to get McMonagle back into court.

"Lexie was an innocent man, a gentleman. All he was doing was going out for his lunch that day. He was a very quiet person.

"He never threatened anyone. I think the people of Donegal need to be made aware of the type of person now being put on a pedestal to represent them. I can walk the streets anywhere. I have peace."

She added: "I may be quiet for a time, but I want to assure him that I haven't gone away. I will keep fighting for justice for my uncle Lexie."

In 2010, Ms Gilfillan found out that Mr McMonagle's name had been submitted by Sinn Fein as a so-called 'on-the-run' when she received a report on the killing from the Historical Enquiries Team. It said: "A review into Lexie's murder was carried out by the 'on-the-run' (OTR) review team in 2003, following William McMonagle's inclusion on a list of OTRs supplied by Sinn Fein to HM Government.

"Following this review the DPP rescinded the direction of December 13, 1982, to prosecute William McMonagle and directed no prosecution against him."

The HET also said that the PSNI concluded that "nothing further could be done with the case".

Speaking to the Donegal News this week, Mr McMonagle said he was "honoured" that his party had chosen him for the post.

"I hope I can carry on the good work previous chairs have done in promoting Donegal in terms of tourism, business and a visitor destination," he said.

He did not respond to this paper's request for comment.

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