Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Murray will not face prosecution over US gunrunning probe

By Gillian Halliday

A senior Sinn Fein official who was investigated over a gunrunning plot will not be charged, the Public Prosecution Service has said.

Former IRA prisoner Sean 'Spike' Murray had been probed over claims he was involved in smuggling arms from the United States between 1995 and 1999.

The IRA called a ceasefire in July 1997.

The PPS said yesterday that it would not be prosecuting a 65-year-old in relation to the matter.

"A decision has been taken not to prosecute a man for any offences in relation to the alleged importation of firearms," it said.

"Careful consideration has been given to all of the available evidence and it has been concluded that this is insufficient to meet the test for prosecution."

Yesterday's announcement came before Mr Murray appears in north Belfast today on a panel to discuss combating paramilitary activity alongside PSNI Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton.

His planned appearance at the Tackling Paramilitarism event, which is supported by the Executive Office, had been reported by the Belfast Telegraph last Friday amid criticism from UUP MLA Doug Beattie.

The MLA had demanded an explanation from Chief Constable George Hamilton over why he had allowed one of his officers to share a panel with the senior republican, prompting the PSNI to defend its engagement with external contributors such as Mr Murray, who at the time was still the subject of a live criminal investigation.

Mr Hamilton came under strong criticism in August from a victims' group after he shared a platform with Mr Murray at a West Belfast Festival debate in St Mary's College also attended by loyalist and PUP member Winston Irvine.

At the time the PSNI said the Chief Constable was "willing to have uncomfortable conversations around the past". It reiterated that message ahead of today's event, with the PSNI stressing that it would "continue to engage with a broad range of individuals" who want to tackle paramilitarism.

The gunrunning claims initially emerged in a 2014 BBC Spotlight programme.

Florida businessman Mike Logan claimed he had conspired with Mr Murray to bring a large consignment of Glock handguns into Northern Ireland. Mr Logan, who has since died, said that among the weapons he sent the IRA were around 200 handguns that were used in several murders, including the killing of two police officers in Lurgan in 1997.

Mr Murray has always denied any suggestion of criminal wrongdoing.

The claims were investigated by the PSNI.

It passed an evidence file to the PPS, which will now not be taking the case any further.

The PPS decision was described as a "travesty" by TUV leader Jim Allister, who said the outcome has let down the families of IRA victims.

"Today's PPS decision not to prosecute key IRA/Sinn Fein figure Spike Murray fuels the belief that such leaders enjoy effective immunity as part of the disreputable protection of 'the process'," he insisted.

"With Logan, who died in 2016, granted immunity in the USA for the information he supplied on Murray, and now Murray gifted no prosecution by the PPS, no one will face justice for this audacious episode of gunrunning.

"Only the families of those murdered by these weapons will suffer. What a travesty."

Belfast Telegraph

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