Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill 'has no problem condemning criminality' after cousin convicted of fuel laundering

By Ciaran Barnes

Michelle O'Neill has said she has "no problem" condemning criminality after her cousin was convicted of fuel laundering.

Gareth Doris, 39, will be sentenced next month for his part in the racket that was busted by PSNI and customs officials in Ardboe, Co Tyrone.

The diesel was being supplied by former Provos from east Tyrone who were behind the 2011 booby-trap car bomb attack that killed Constable Kerr in Omagh, The Sunday Life revealed.

However, Ms O’Neill refused to specifically condemn her cousin Gareth Doris’ role in diesel smuggling and was heavily criticised by political opponents.

Ulster Unionist politician Sandra Overend criticised the Sinn Fein leader for failing to personally condemn her cousin’s criminality.

Responding to the criticism Ms O'Neill was asked by the BBC if she would condemn anyone in fuel laundering

"I don't have a problem with that, I absolutely condemn anyone who has been involved in fuel laundering or criminality," she said.

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The dirty diesel scam that the Sinn Fein leader's IRA bomber cousin was caught up in was being run by the dissident republicans who murdered policeman Ronan Kerr.

They also have criminal links to  convicted fraudster Brian Arthurs, who who has been named as a former member of the IRA’ Army Council and who has made a fortune from fuel laundering and the sale of counterfeit cigarettes and alcohol.

Wealthy republican godfather Brian Arthurs, who detectives believe controls fuel laundering in east Tyrone, would have at one time been close to Michelle O’Neill.

The politician’s cousin Gareth Doris remains among Arthurs’ close circle of friends and, like the former Provo chief, served a sentence at the Maze Prison for possessing explosives.

Most of the feared east Tyrone unit of the IRA to which both men belonged quit the organisation in 2007 over Sinn Fein’s support for the PSNI.

Its members were later involved in a number of terror attacks that included the 2011 murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr in Omagh.

But many soon became disillusioned with the direction being taken by dissident republicans and walked away.

They now concentrate their efforts on running a huge crime empire involving laundered fuel, counterfeit cigarettes and illegal booze that covers east Tyrone.

Sinn Fein chief Michelle O’Neill’s cousin Gareth Doris is a trusted and key figure in this gang.

From Coalisland, Doris entered republican folklore in 1997 when he was wounded by the SAS trying to blow up the RUC station in the town.

Doris, then aged 19, claimed he was returning from church having been at confession when he was gunned down.

But he was jailed for 10 years for possessing explosives, before being freed early in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The convicted bomber lives alone in a small block of flats at Gortnaskea Place in the centre of Coalisland.

Sources say that he has in the past carried out voluntary work for Sinn Fein during elections, however he is not a member of the party.

Doris was among four people who fled from the fuel laundering site at J&K Coaches in Ardboe when it was raided by police and customs officials in March 2014.

When he was later arrested the republican denied any involvement, but was linked to the scam by DNA found on a phone at the premises and a car that was registered in his name.

Doris however claimed to have loaned his car to someone else, but he declined an opportunity to attend with police, to provide a name of the person or to make a statement to that effect.

When he was quizzed by PSNI officers he made a pre-prepared statement denying involvement, then made ‘no comment’ replies to all other questions. A search of the DNA database also threw up matches to two fuel laundering sites in Armagh.

At one, a bottle was recovered with a full DNA profile for Doris, along with a jumper from which DNA was found inside the cuffs.

At the second site a glove was found with DNA evidence, as was a jacket which smelled of fuel.

Convicting Doris at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court last Monday, Judge Meehan said: “The defendant basically stood back and at police interview gave a prepared statement which gave rise to more questions than answers.

“He simply said ‘no’ and can’t therefore expect the court not to draw inference.

“His belongings in the form of a car, a glove, a jacket, a jumper and a bottle were all located and it is not credible to say that he was not involved.

Judge Meehan added: “There is no reasonable doubt whatsoever he was connected to all three sites.”

Gareth Doris will be sentenced next month for the fraudulent evasion of duty on hydrocarbon oil.

Co-accused Kevin Quinn, 40, of Ardean Close in Cookstown, will be sentenced on the same charge, as will a third man, 46-year-old John Thomas O’Neill of Sandy Row in Coalisland.

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