Northern Ireland news

IRA east Tyrone commander claims no deal done with UVF after secret meeting with MP Francie Molloy

Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy
Connla Young

A former IRA leader in east Tyrone has disputed claims that loyalists and republicans reached an "understanding" after a secret meeting in the early 1990s.

Fresh claims about the meeting have emerged just weeks after Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy said he met two members of the UVF and a Protestant clergyman in a hotel car park near Dungannon.

After the meeting he claims an “understanding” was reached between republicans and loyalists and there were no more killings in the area.

In an unusual move a former 'Officer Commanding' of the IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade has claimed that the meeting took place without the knowledge or consent of the organisation’s leadership in the area.

Until recently few details about what is alleged to have happened at the 1993 meeting were known.

The former IRA man claims that Mr Molloy met with just one loyalist and the church minister.

The loyalist, who was a member of the UDR, is believed by republicans to have been part of a UVF gang operating in the area at the time.

The former Provo chief says the meeting was set up after the loyalist contacted an east Tyrone man he falsely believed to be a member of the IRA.

The contact was in fact a republican sympathiser who later passed on the message to another republican.

The ex commander claims the meeting was then arranged without consultation with the IRA’s local command structure.

He says that Mr Molloy was accompanied to the meeting by the contact and that a bitter row broke out between him and the loyalist.

It has been suggested the contact then got out of the vehicle leaving Mr Molloy on his own with the loyalist and clergyman.

The meeting was arranged after a suspected member of the loyalist murder gang was killed by the IRA.

Both loyalists and republicans were active in the area in the run up to the meeting.

But the former IRA commander has dismissed any suggestion that a deal was done to end the killings.

He says that had the IRA been aware of the planned meeting the loyalist would have been killed.

According to Mr Molloy’s account the loyalist delegation was concerned about what the future held for them and indicated that the unit was planning to halt its activities.

“The message coming to me as a Sinn Féin representative was that this loyalist group was saying they were stopping,” he said.

“I don’t think there were any other attacks in that area – there was an understanding that things were moving on.”

Republicans say that security forces, including UDR members, continued to be targeted after the meeting.

The IRA man claims that prior to the meeting several attempts were made on the loyalist’s life while family members were also targeted.

The UVF unit the man belonged to is believed by republicans to have been formed after the IRA shot dead UDR member Raymond McNicol near Cookstown in August 1988.

He was killed after his car was sprayed with gunfire as he made his way to work.

A member of the Orange Order, he had been in the UDR since 1976.

After his death loyalists in east Tyrone launched a concerted retaliatory campaign.

Sinn Féin member Tommy Casey is believed to have been targeted by the murder squad. He was killed near Cookstown in October 1990.

The car used by the killers was later found close to the spot where Mr McNicol was shot dead.

Almost a year to the day former republican prisoner Sean Anderson was killed by the UVF.

It is believed he was told by a senior RUC officer that he was the intended target when Tommy Casey was shot.

After his murder campaigning priest Fr Denis Faul voiced concern that no-one had been charged and no weapons recovered after a series of sectarian murders carried out by loyalists in the Mid Ulster area.

He also said the ballistic history of weapons used to kill Catholics had not been released and asked if any of the weapons had been stolen from UDR armouries.

In the months after his murder three UDR members and a civilian worker were arrested and questioned by the RUC.

Reports from the time say they were being quizzed about sectarian killings in the Mid Ulster area before being released without charge.

Within weeks of their release a loyalist weapons stash was recovered by the RUC on a country road near Coagh in Co Tyrone.

At the time it was reported that a rifle, submachine gun and revolver had been found.

Through documents disclosed during an inquest into an LVF murder victim it is now suggested two of these weapons were used in other murders, including that of Sean Anderson.

It has been claimed locally that the weapons may have been deliberately left for collection by the RUC by the loyalist murder squad.

Read more: Francie Molloy tells of secret meeting before UVF unit halted killing spree

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