Belfast Telegraph

Police examine republican Troubles museum Narrow Water rifle claim

The mangled metal frame of an L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle thought to be that of a soldier involved in the Narrow Water atrocity: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The mangled metal frame of an L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle thought to be that of a soldier involved in the Narrow Water atrocity: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The metal frame of an L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle (top) and a resin copy
Kevin Carson, the curator of the Roddy McCorley Society living history museum in Belfast, holds a pair of Colonel Gaddafi’s slippers

Police are investigating claims a rifle held by a republican collection of Troubles artifacts may have belonged to the British Army and possibly held by a soldier killed in the biggest single attack on troops in Northern Ireland.

The Roddy McCorley Society in west Belfast is attempting to secure official museum status ahead of a major expansion.

Its collection - amassed over five decades - includes items related to the Troubles and associated with the republican tradition, as well as some items from loyalists.

Shoes reputedly owned by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and apparently gifted to IRA leader Joe Cahill during a visit to the North African country while trying to secure arms for the Provisionals.

The Troubles collection also includes a bed and blanket from Long Kesh/Maze prison and a badly damaged Army issue rifle a member of the public apparently found close to the site of the Narrow Water bombings that killed 18 soldiers in 1979.

The double IRA bombing was the biggest single loss of life suffered by the Army during the Troubles.

UUP MLA Doug Beattie said the weapon should be confiscated by police "to ensure all evidence has been gathered and a valid decommission certificate has been issued.

"Then it needs to be returned to MoD for disposal," he added.

The Roddy McCorley Society was formed in 1972 to raise funds for the families of republican prisoners. The collection began with art crafted by those prisoners, such as Celtic crosses and leather wallets.

The society has already secured Belfast City Council backing to transform the collection's present home, in three rooms above the Roddy McCorley Social Club on the Glen Road, into a purpose-built museum facility.

Kevin Carson, the curator of the Roddy McCorley Society living history museum in Belfast, holds a pair of Colonel Gaddafi’s slippers
Kevin Carson, the curator of the Roddy McCorley Society living history museum in Belfast, holds a pair of Colonel Gaddafi’s slippers

As part of the process it is hoping to achieve museum accreditation. The society recently met with officials from National Museums NI to discuss its ambitions. It's hoped gaining the status would allow it to collaborate with other museums and potentially exchange items.

While telling the story of the Troubles through a republican prism, the collection also includes several loyalist items, donated by ex-prisoners from the other tradition who have visited as part of reconciliation initiatives.

Detective Chief Superintendent Bobby Singleton, who works in the PSNI's legacy and justice department said press reports of the Narrow Water weapon had attracted the attention of the police.

“We are now aware of the existence of what is reputed to have been a weapon belonging to British Army personnel at Narrow Water," he said.

"We have now commenced initial enquiries with a view to establishing the veracity of these claims and what, if anything, PSNI will be legally required to do.”

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