Belfast Telegraph

Fury of IRA victim's niece after 'on-the-run' suspect joins Taoiseach during visit


By Leona O'Neill

The niece of an IRA murder victim says she is "shocked and outraged" after a man once accused in Parliament of killing her uncle was part of the Taoiseach's entourage during an official visit to Londonderry.

Controversial Donegal Mayor Gerry McMonagle stood shoulder to shoulder with Leo Varadkar during the visit on Saturday morning.

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

Mr Cummings (39) died in a hail of bullets as he drove home for lunch from the menswear shop where he worked in Strabane.

A week later Mr McMonagle was arrested and remanded in custody until he was brought to trial a year later.

When the trial started he was released because papers were not properly countersigned but was promptly rearrested as he left court.

After being released for a second time, Mr McMonagle fled across the border and moved to Donegal where he became a Sinn Fein councillor, Mayor of Letterkenny and then Mayor of Donegal.

On Saturday Mr McMonagle, who was listed as an 'on-the-run' in 2003, was back in Northern Ireland in the most public of ways - going walkabout with Mr Varadkar.

Mr Cummings' heartbroken niece, Shelley Gilfillan, hit out at both the Taoiseach and the PSNI over the incident.

"I am shocked, I am upset and I am angry," she said. "I am totally taken aback that he had the cheek to be able to do this.

"I'm so angry that he is able to walk about with the Taoiseach and I would like to know what the Taoiseach has got to say about this. Is he aware of what Gerry McMonagle is suspected of doing?

"The Taoiseach and his staff should have done their research. They should have known. It is not something that has been hidden."

Ms Cummings claimed the presence of Mr McMonagle could have posed a security risk.

"I can't understand why the PSNI did not act. The Taoiseach would be at risk of terror attack, and there he has a suspected terrorist walking beside him on the Peace Bridge of all places," she added.

"Surely security should have been more stringent. There has been a bungle made somewhere.

"Did they not realise who they had walking beside the Taoiseach? Not only that but he is walking free and no-one is doing anything about it. Are they going to let this happen again?

"I want to know if the Taoiseach is happy to have this suspected terrorist accompanying him?

"I am totally in shock that this happened. It is very upsetting."

East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that Mr McMonagle should have been arrested and brought in for questioning by the PSNI. "Leo Varadkar should have been alerted to who was going to be there," he added.

"The police ought to have been aware of the background of a fairly small group of people accompanying a high-profile visitor to Northern Ireland.

"If it is the case that one of those present is still wanted for possible interrogation about past criminal or terrorist activities, then at an opportune moment that should have been taken care of, rather than providing security.

"He should have been arrested."

In 2010, Ms Gilfillan found out that Mr McMonagle's name had been submitted by Sinn Fein as an 'on-the-run' when she received a report on the killing from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET). It stated: "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".

When asked if Mr McMonagle was still a person of interest to the PSNI, a spokesperson said: "Legacy Investigation Branch has taken over the role, previously dealt with by HET, of reviewing homicide investigations.

"It is also reviewing incidents linked to persons who were connected with the 'OTR' letters, looking for investigative opportunities.

"When either kind of review identifies fresh opportunities to obtain evidence, those lines of enquiry will be passed to investigative teams.

"Detectives would be keen to speak to any potential witnesses who have not previously come forward or anyone who may have any fresh information about this murder in 1982 to contact our Legacy Investigation Branch."

Sinn Féin said: “Gerry McMonagle was accompanying An Taoiseach in his democratically elected capacity as the Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council under the auspices of the North West Strategic growth partnership.”

The Taoiseach’s office declined to comment on the matter.

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