The family of Barney McDonald believe gunmen are State agents as they seek justice for his unsolved murder 20 years on
The daughter of an innocent taxi driver murdered by the Provisional IRA believes some of his killers are being protected from prosecution because they are State agents.
Alicia McDonald says 20 years on from the cowardly fatal shotgun attack on her father, Barney McDonald, her family remain determined to get justice.
Although the murder victim’s relatives have refused to name any of the suspects over fears it could hamper prosecutions, Sunday Life can reveal one is now a prominent figure in the New IRA.
Alicia says: “I do believe there is a tout in the camp. There are people who have information and the police know about it.
“I believe dad’s killers are being protected from prosecution because at least one is a State agent.”
Barney was shot dead in April 2002 after clashing with senior Provos in Dungannon. He got in a fist fight with one after the gang taunted his son in a pub.
The 51-year-old’s murder came at a critical time in the peace process and just two weeks after the IRA announced it had decommissioned a tranche of its weapons.
Sinn Fein’s role in the Executive — which was to collapse six months later amid spy-ring allegations — was also in jeopardy due to concerns over continued Provo violence.
Because of this IRA leaders in east Tyrone tried to blame Barney’s murder on loyalists. The Red Hand Defenders claimed responsibility in a telephone call to a Belfast newsroom, however this was quickly dismissed as fake.
At the time, the IRA in east Tyrone was led by veteran republicans Brian Arthurs and his brother-in-law Frankie Quinn.
Arthurs (57) was jailed for 25 years for explosives offences in 1995, but only served five years before being released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. He has since been convicted of a £250,000 mortgage fraud that made legal history due to it being held in a non-jury court.
Quinn (61) has served lengthy prison sentences on both sides of the border including a 16-year stretch for possessing a 1,000lb bomb. He now writes poetry and has been critical of dissident republicans.
Last week a judge ruled that both Arthurs and Quinn breached coronavirus regulations by taking part in a guard of honour at the funeral of former Sinn Fein councillor Francie McNally at the time of the first lockdown in April 2020.
Republican and security sources told Sunday Life that the pair could have knowledge of the Barney McDonald murder given their roles as East Tyrone IRA leaders in 2002.
However, there is no suggestion that either was one of the two gunmen who blasted the father-of-eight to death after he was lured to pick up a bogus fare at a snooker hall in Donaghmore.
In the weeks before Barney’s killing a gang of Provos pretending to be the Real IRA called to a friend’s house looking for him.
His campaigning daughter says that her father knew he was going to be the victim of a revenge attack, but had no idea that he would be shot dead.
Six months later the family met Sinn Fein Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew to ask the politician for help.
Alicia recalls: “We met with Michelle Gildernew. It took six months to get that meeting. As we were walking out the last thing that was said to her was, ‘Would you support a public inquiry into this?’ She said, ‘I’ll have to take legal advice on that’.”
Since then, relatives of Barney McDonald say they have heard nothing from politicians and little from the PSNI. Sunday Life contacted Sinn Fein for comment yesterday but they were unable to comment due to the election.
The investigation into his horrific and needless revenge killing — carried out simply because an IRA chief suffered a bruised ego — has gone cold. Adding to the family’s pain is having to see the Provo who ordered the murder walking the streets of Dungannon a free man.
Alicia adds: “Family members would meet him quite often in the street and he just smirks at them. It’s well known (who was responsible). Everybody knows who done it, but we’ve no forensic evidence.”
The PSNI confirmed the Barney McDonald murder case is with its Legacy Investigations Branch “for future review”.
Detective Superintendent Stephen Wright said: “We understand the suffering Mr McDonald’s family continue to go through.
“I would wish to reassure them that the case does remain open, and any new information about the murder should be brought to the attention of police.”
Barney’s wife Mary died before he was murdered and two of his sons have died in car accidents.
Remembering him fondly, daughter Alicia says: “He was a generous family man, a real get-up-and-go person who set up his own taxi business 20 years before he was murdered.
“He sadly never got to see us (his daughters) grow up. When my father was killed he had two daughters who were still in school — he never got to see us go to university, get married and have families of our own. The same goes for all the grandchildren he never got to meet. It’s heartbreaking.”
Appealing for information about her father’s murder, Alicia added: “There were people who knew prior to this murder that my dad was going to be killed. These were people well-known to him. There are others who know this same information, so we are appealing to you today to do the right thing and give us the information we need to get justice for my daddy.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing and tell us anything you may know about this abhorrent crime, to get justice for my dad and let our family’s grief finally be put to rest.”