Belfast Telegraph

Why was suspected IRA gun runner Spike Murray allowed to meet Chief Constable?

Sister of murdered RUC officer demands answers after Sinn Fein man was part of delegation which met top cop.

By Ciaran Barnes

The sister of an RUC officer shot dead by the IRA has demanded to know how a top republican accused of masterminding a gun running operation was allowed to meet the Chief Constable.

Sean ‘Spike’ Murray was part of a Sinn Fein delegation that held face to face talks with George Hamilton at PSNI headquarters in Belfast last weekend.

This is despite a live police investigation into claims he smuggled 200 handguns from Florida into Northern Ireland after the IRA ceasefire.

One of  the powerful Glock pistols was used in the 1997 murders of Celine Clarke’s brother David Johnston, a police constable, and his colleague John Graham in Lurgan.

Celine now wants to know if the killings were raised by the Chief Constable during his meeting with Murray last weekend – and if not, why.

She said: “It hurts to see them [George Hamilton and Spike Murray] meeting when he [Murray] is accused of bringing in the gun that killed my brother. It’s very disappointing.”

Murray was at PSNI HQ along with senior Sinn Fein politicians to deny IRA involvement in the recent murder of Kevin McGuigan and to insist that the organisation no longer exists.

The meeting took place even though convicted bomber Murray is at the centre of a new police probe into the Provo’s Florida gun running scam.

In return for immunity from prosecution, Mike Logan – the American who sourced the weapons for the IRA – told the FBI that Murray organised the shipments hidden inside toy fire trucks.

His claims - made in a BBC Spotlight programme last year and in a Sunday Life interview - now form the basis of a renewed police investigation.

Senior Sinn Fein strategist Murray described the claims made in the programme as “without foundation”.

A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed its inquiries into the matter are “continuing”, but when pressed to reveal how many suspects have been questioned by detectives, all she would say is: “We cannot elaborate any further.”

Lagan Valley DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who knows the family of David Johnston, said: “I appreciate the concerns of victims, especially when you have included in a Sinn Fein delegation an individual who is the subject of an ongoing investigation into IRA activity.

“This puts police in a difficult position, in that it has to investigate unsolved murders while at the same time meeting republicans who were potentially involved.

“We need absolute clarity about the current structures of the IRA because at this very moment you have people at a senior level in Sinn Fein who have been involved in serious crime.”

The slayings of the RUC officers in 1997 were not the only killings in which the IRA used Mike Logan’s Florida-sourced weapons.

A Glock from the same consignment was used by the Provos to shoot west Belfast dissident Joseph O’Connor in 2000.

There are also fears that the guns used by IRA members to murder Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast earlier this month came from the same US stockpile.

Bullet casings recovered from the Short Strand slaughter scene are now being forensically tested to establish any link.

Last week Mike Logan told this newspaper of his dread at potentially supplying the weapon used in the feud killing of ex-Provo hitman McGuigan.

He said: “Unfortunately, I think there is a very good chance I could have sent the gun used to kill Kevin McGuigan.”

If however it is proven that the weapons used by ex-Provos to murder the father-of-nine were actually held back from IRA decommissioning in 2005 there will be major political consequences for Sinn Fein.

DUP MP Mr Donaldson told Sunday Life: “A number of questions remain unanswered including whether the weapons used to murder Kevin McGuigan were used by the IRA in the past.

“We will be pressing the Chief Constable on this possible connection and the possibility these guns were brought into the country from the US.”

Chief Constable George Hamilton has confirmed that the IRA still exists and its members carried out the murder of Kevin McGuigan on August 12.

However he has insisted the killing was not sanctioned at a senior level and that the Provisional IRA is now promoting politics and not terrorism.

The catalyst for this latest political crisis was the May murder of IRA commander Jock Davison, 47, in south Belfast.

He is believed to have been shot dead by McGuigan, 53, in revenge for a Provo punishment he suffered more than a decade ago.

Former IRA men loyal to Davison vowed to avenge his killing and gunned down McGuigan outside his home in the Short Strand. Before their fall-out the pair were  friends and hitmen for the IRA front group Direct Action Against Drugs.

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