INLA man feigned friend­ship but or­dered my death

As the ter­ror group re­cruits again, Jim Cu­sack re­calls its bloody past and how he nearly be­came one of its vic­tims

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - A N A Ly S I S -

ASUM­MONS to meet the INLA lead­er­ship in west Belfast over some dis­puted de­tail in a story about one of the ter­ror group’s in­ter­nal feuds, was not some­thing that any jour­nal­ist could feel com­fort­able about. It was, how­ever, bet­ter to dis­cuss the mat­ter than be put on a hit list for as­sas­si­na­tion by the North’s most volatile and mur­der­ous or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Dur­ing one of their feuds in the mid-Eight­ies, I was called to the Spring­field Road, home of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s spokesman. The house was un­der con­stant CCTV sur­veil­lance from the British Army base, so it was at least un­likely I would be killed there.

Ar­riv­ing for the mid-af­ter­noon meet­ing, it was clear that those in­side were not pre­pared, and had had a very late night. One of the INLA men was wear­ing only soiled boxer shorts and a dirty Tshirt and was snort­ing co­caine off a saucer. The INLA leader Hugh Tor­ney was asleep up­stairs. The man in the kitchen of­fered a cup of tea and sug­gested I take a seat in the filthy liv­ing room where we chat­ted for a while. Tor­ney then ap­peared un­ex­pect­edly, stand­ing be­hind my sofa.

I was acutely aware of the fate of a Belfast INLA man in a pre­vi­ous feud. Ger­ard ‘Sparky’ Barkley, had been sum­moned to meet the then INLA leader, Do­minic McGlinchey, in Dun­dalk in Oc­to­ber 1983. Barkley did not sus­pect a trap and was sit­ting on a sofa in McGlinchey’s Dun­dalk house chat­ting to his wife, Mary, when McGlinchey emerged from the kitchen and shot him through the back of the head. The fact that I had re­ported that the McGlincheys had then car­ried Barkley’s body out to the back yard, cut his throat and drained the body of blood to make it lighter to trans­port away and bury, had ap­par­ently up­set McGlinchey.

McGlinchey had sent an in­vi­ta­tion to meet him in Dun­dalk, which I de­clined de­spite the ap­par­ent of­fer of an in­ter­view with Ire­land’s most no­to­ri­ous killer.

Any­way, Tor­ney was clearly an­gry that I had spo­ken to his op­po­nents and kept say­ing: “I don’t know what to do about this.” But .even­tu­ally he calmed down, and the two, af­ter a brief visit to the kitchen, re­turned in much bet­ter spir­its and we worked out an agree­able state­ment for the pa­per.

The re­la­tion­ship with the INLA was a dif­fi­cult one. They loved pub­lic­ity but went mad when some­thing ap­peared which didn’t suit their pur­poses. Tor­ney’s side­kick, Jimmy Brown, once said their re­la­tion­ship with the news­pa­pers was like that between men and women: “ You can’t live with them, can’t live with­out them.” While Brown was reg­u­larly on the phone, and while he feigned a kind of friend­ship, he had also once given or­ders for my mur­der.

I had been ap­proached sep­a­rately by three Catholic busi­ness peo­ple in west Belfast who had been told to hand over sub­stan­tial sums of money to the INLA or be killed. Sev­eral oth­ers had also been sim­i­lary ap­proached, they said.

The INLA had a ship­ment of guns in France, but needed money to pay for them. I in­ad­ver­tently men­tioned to a col­league that I was pur­su­ing the story. He stupidly men­tioned it, while drink­ing in a re­pub­li­can club, to some­one who, in turn, tipped off Brown. He or­dered one of his hench­men to kill me if the story ap­peared. They were also to kill a com­pletely in­no­cent ex-INLA man who he had seen in my com­pany, wrongly be­liev­ing him to be the source.

The next morn­ing the exINLA man crossed the city and fran­ti­cally waved me down as I drove to work. Sit­ting in the car he asked if I was writ­ing a story about the INLA “fundrais­ing”. I told him I was and he told me that if I did we were both to be shot dead. (Brown and the hench­man, Gino Gal­lagher, were both later shot dead in an­other round of INLA feud­ing in early 1996).

So too was Tor­ney. So too was McGlinchey and his wife, And so was Ger­ard “Doc­tor Death” Steen­son, Tor­ney’s as­sas­sin-in-chief, all due to in­ter­nal feud­ing.

De­spite their for­ays into ac­tual acts of ter­ror­ism di­rected at the British Army, the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment or ac­cent. It was with a mix of the RUC, death in Ire­land’s hor­ror and re­lief when he “re­pub­li­can so­cial­ist” army of pointed the gun at the side of na­tional lib­er­a­tion was his head and shot him­self. in­evitably at the hands of Colm McPeake, 39, from west for­mer as­so­ciates. Belfast had spent the pre­vi­ous

Shortly be­fore the last feud, few weeks wan­der­ing around in which Tor­ney died in Mill­town Ceme­tery, where 1996m, he had fi­nally de­cided most of his for­mer INLA he had made a mis­take in not as­so­ciates who were killed in shoot­ing me that day in feuds were buried. He then Belfast. Again it was over some made the jour­ney to Dublin de­tail in a story about one of and, for no known rea­son, his fallen com­rades. His - walked into Fitzgib­bon Street in­ten­tions, how­ever, were to end his life. For­mer picked up by the Garda Spe­cial as­so­ciates said he had been Branch who set up a guard over­wrought with re­morse around our house in Dublin about how so many of his one­and pre­vented the at­tack. time com­rades had been killed

The in­ter­minable blood by their own, for­mer friends. feud­ing ( the causes were McPeake had been at the mainly lead­er­ship dis­putes or cen­tre of the INLA for years rows over money) had a weird and sur­vived sev­eral at­tempts flash­back at Fitzgib­bon Street on his life by peo­ple he had Garda Sta­tion in Dublin in be­lieved had been his Fe­bru­ary 2002. Gar­dai on duty com­rades in the rev­o­lu­tionin the re­cep­tion area were ary re­pub­li­can- so­cial­ist hor­ri­fied when a man walked strug­gle to free Ire­land from in, pulled out a gun and what he and his friends saw as shouted some­thing in­com­prethe twin yoke of British hen­si­ble in a thick Belfast op­pres­sion in the North, and in­ter­na­tional cap­i­tal­ist dom­i­na­tion in the South. He spent time in Paris in the 1970s and 1980s with like­minded rev­o­lu­ta­tion­ar­ies, mem­bers of the French left­ist ter­ror group, Ac­tion Directe, and met mem­bers of Ger­many’s Red Army Fac­tion and Baader-Mein­hof.

In Ire­land, the revo­lu­tion­ary so­cial­ism of the INLA and its po­lit­i­cal wing, the Ir­ish Re­pub­li­can So­cial­ist Party, never evolved into any­thing other than an ugly vi­o­lent tran­script to the North­ern Trou­bles. The mainly mid­dle­class uni­ver­sity rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies in Dublin, who briefly flocked to the ban­ner of re­pub­li­can so­cial­ism, grad­u­ally drifted away when they re­alised what a mon­ster it had spawned in the INLA.

Feud­ing was a way of life in the INLA. Its founder, Sea­mus Costello from Bray, was as­sas­si­nated in one of the first feuds with mem­bers of the Of­fi­cial IRA in 1977. Its in­tel­lec­tual leader in the North, Ron­nie Bunting, a Protes­tant grad­u­ate of Queen’s Uni­ver­sity and son of Ma­jor Ron­nie Bunting, one of Ian Pais­ley’s most de­voted loy­al­ist sup­port­ers, was shot dead by loy­al­ists in his home in west Belfast in Oc­to­ber 1980. At the time his life was al­ready un­der threat from el­e­ments within his own move­ment and sev­eral of his close as­so­ciates were sub­se­quently mur­dered by their erst­while com­rades.

ALONG the way, the mainly mid­dle-class rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies spawned a small army of young killers from re­pub­li­can strongholds, who car­ried out some of the worst atroc­i­ties of the Trou­bles. It was INLA gun­men who opened fire on the prayer meet­ing at the Moun­tain Lodge Pen­ta­costal­ist Hall at Darkley, in south Ar­magh, in Novem­ber 1983, killing three of the con­gre­ga­tion and in­jur­ing sev­eral oth­ers. An INLA bomb killed 11 young off-duty sol­diers, four young woman and a 17-year-old youth who were at­tend­ing a disco at the Drop­pin Well pub­lic house in Bal­lykelly, Co Derry, in De­cem­ber 1982.

The high- point in the INLA’s ca­reer, if it can be called that, was the mur­der of the Con­ser­va­tive Party’s North­ern Ire­land spokesman, Airey Neave, who died when a bomb ex­ploded un­der­neath his car in the un­der­ground carpark at the House of Com­mons in 1979. The INLA’s vic­tims dur­ing the Trou­bles in­cluded 42 mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces, mostly off- duty po­lice­men, part-time sol­diers or prison of­fi­cers, 42 civil­ians and 29 of its own mem­bers. In the Repub­lic, its ini­tial ac­tiv­i­ties of pro­vid­ing sup­port for the “strug­gle” in the North fairly quickly de­scended into in­volve­ment in drugs and crime.

Af­ter the Belfast Agree­ment, the for­mer re­pub­li­can rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies ac­cepted at least one re­mark­able bur­sary of Stg£400,000 for an ex-re­pub­li­can pris­on­ers’ dis­cus­sion group.

The INLA has never dis­armed, and re­cently it has been try­ing to mus­cle in on the mas­sively lu­cra­tive drugs trade in the south and west of the city, ef­forts which have been re­cently stymied by Garda op­er­a­tions. Garda and the PSNI be­lieve the INLA car­ried out two mur­ders this year — both of ri­val drug deal­ers, Roy Cod­ding­ton, shot dead in Drogheda in March, and Brian McG­lynn, shot dead in Derry in May.

At present there is said to be no cen­tral lead­er­ship, but INLA groups are re­cruit­ing and train­ing young men in Derry, Belfast and the Craigavon area in the North. They are not very care­ful about who they re­cruit, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal repub­li­cans. Few of the young re­cruits will have ever heard of the rev­o­lu­tary authors and fig­ures, like Franz Fanon and Che Gue­vara, who in­spired the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies of the Six­ties and Sev­en­ties.

It would be hard to imag­ine a group more dif­fer­ent to the ide­o­log­i­cal Marx­ists who founded the INLA. They demon­strate this reg­u­larly when, like all mod­ern young pro­le­tariat yobs, they love to film their armed dis­plays and ral­lies on their mo­bile pic­ture phones and to post them onto Bebo from their PCs.

DO­MINIC McGLINCHEY: Shot Ger­ard ‘Sparky’ Barkley in INLA feud

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