High-profile on the run IRA suspect won't attend hunger strike commemoration in case he is arrested
Published 29/07/2014 | 22:00
A high-profile on-the-run IRA arms suspect will not attend next weekend’s huge hunger strike commemoration in Fermanagh in case he is arrested.
Owen Carron told Sunday Life he will not be going to the 10,000-strong event in Derrylin on August 3.
His admission came just minutes before he made a Friday night speech to republicans in Ballyconnell — just one mile from the border.
“Ni tá mé ag dul (I am not going),” Carron replied to our reporter in Irish, despite having been asked the question about Derrylin in English.
The former Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP — who retained the seat for republicans after the death of Bobby Sands in 1981 — has been ‘on the run’ in the South since 1986 after being charged with possessing an AK47 assault rifle.
But Carron, a teacher by profession, has hardly made a secret of his whereabouts for most of that time.
He worked as a builder before returning to teaching in 1994 and went on to become the principal at two schools in Co Leitrim.
The recently retired headmaster, 61, refused further Sunday Life requests for an interview.
Carron’s appearance at Friday’s hunger strike commemoration in Ballyconnell infuriated the victims of IRA violence and unionist politicians.
They expressed hurt at what they see is a very public display of bravado by a man wanted in Northern Ireland for weapons offences.
Stephen Gault who was badly injured in the IRA’s 1987 Enniskillen Poppy Day bombing, which also killed his dad Samuel, said: “This makes me sick to the pit of my stomach.
“It’s a total insult to the families of the people from Derrylin murdered by the IRA.
“Owen Carron is effectively rubbing their noses in it by taking part in this hunger strike event at Ballyconnell so near the border.”
Stephen believes Carron’s Ballyconnell talk was “glorified terrorism”, a view shared by Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott, who called on the PSNI to arrest the republican if he ever steps foot in Northern Ireland.
He said: “It is very frustrating to see Owen Carron attending these republican events just a mile from the border. It’s nothing more than provocation on his part.
“Ballyconnell isn’t far from Derrylin, where the IRA murdered six people during the Troubles and where republicans will attend next week’s hunger strike march.”
Mr Elliott says he has heard from credible sources that Owen Carron has been making fleeting trips back to Fermanagh.
“The police should arrest him if he ever steps foot in Northern Ireland again,” added the Assemblyman.
It is understood Carron’s name was among the list of 228 ‘on the run’ republicans compiled by Sinn Fein, who sought comfort letters from the British government.
The vast majority of them received written assurances that they were free to return to Northern Ireland and not wanted for prosecution but Carron did not and remains wanted by the PSNI.
An inquiry into the controversial scheme by Lady Justice Hallett found that the letters were not an amnesty and the scheme was lawful, but there were “significant systemic failures” in how it operated.
If Owen Carron has any worries about being arrested, he was certainly not showing them on Friday night.
He took to the stage in Ballyconnell Community Centre to claps and cheers from around 200 republicans.
Carron talked about his memories of the 1981 hunger strike, visiting Bobby Sands in the Maze Prison hospital, and eventually his role in helping the IRA prisoner win the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminster by-election.
“It never, ever crossed his mind in any of our conversations that he should stop (the hunger strike),” said Carron.
“He always knew that he would die, and perhaps that one other would die as well before the British would move.”
Carron made no reference to his own situation and the fact that he faces arrest if he returns to Northern Ireland, other than to say he has been in “exile” in Leitrim since the 1980s.