One of Sinn Fein’s most senior leadership figures began importing guns to Northern Ireland after the IRA ceasefires and allegedly boasted that one of the weapons was used to murder two policemen, a BBC investigation has revealed.
Sean ‘Spike’ Murray, at one time a key figure in the IRA, is now so trusted by the Sinn Fein leadership that just months ago he was one of the party’s negotiators in the Haass talks which considered ‘dealing with the past’.
Yet a Florida gunrunner last night revealed extraordinary detail about how in 1995 Murray allegedly asked him to start sending weapons to the IRA; a process which only ended in 1999 after accomplices were caught and after about 400 guns had been sent to the Province.
In a BBC Spotlight programme broadcast tonight, Mike Logan said that he started his gun-running the year after the first IRA ceasefire.
Incredibly, he was given immunity from prosecution by the US Government in 2002 — just months after the US had gone to war over the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on America.
As part of that deal, he gave information to the US Government, which he says knew about Murray’s involvement. Yet it is unclear what the US Government did with that information.
Mr Logan, who said he was drawn to the IRA after becoming “completely compelled to the story of how people could starve themselves to death for a political cause”, first contacted Murray after being directed to him by an individual in Noraid, the Irish-American organisation which raised funds for the IRA and Sinn Fein.
He said that he met Murray on the Springfield Road: “He asked me ‘how can you help us out’ and I really didn’t know what he was talking about...I finally got it and said are you talking about guns and he gave me some body language to say that’s what he was talking about.”
He added: “I didn’t know what the gentleman’s name was at that point. I later came to know that his name was Sean Murray or Spike Murray.”
Mr Logan said that he subsequently met Murray’s wife and visited his parents’ home as their relationship deepened.
He described the then IRA man as “ultra, ultra security conscious” and said that he believed the British could “hear through the walls with different devices”. Because of that, he said that Murray would write down a list of guns and then burn the list. He was paid in cash after buying the guns second hand in America in private sales.
He decided to hide the contraband in toys — often fire engines — after the IRA told him that customs officers would be too lazy to unscrew the compartments in such apparent gifts.
Each would generally contain two pistols — .357 Magnums, 9mm hand guns and other calibres — and about 20 bullets. He claimed that at one point Murray told him “if you could get a Glock that would be like phenomenal” because at that point the IRA did not have any of those weapons. In June 1997, RUC Constable John Graham and Reserve Constable David Johnston were shot in the back of the head in Lurgan by individuals dressed as women.
According to Mr Logan, he visited Belfast the following month. Recalling the visit, he said: “He [Murray] circles a couple of them [guns on the list] and he said that one there had been used in an operation that had happened in Lurgan about a month previous that I was familiar with.”
He added of the weapon: “It was kind of an unusual gun. It was a Colt 9mm with an internal hammer which is kind of rare, and he circled that and he wrote next to it - two Lurgan RUC. And I knew exactly what that operation was and it happened about a month before...he wrote next to it...that gun did those.”
He said that the smuggling process had continued — even after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and as the IRA moved towards decommissioning.
“When I first started, I think the first ceasefire was going on. I was told to ignore any talk about that. And then the second the [second] ceasefire came about, I was told to ignore that and then the decommissioning process started on and I was told to just ignore any headlines that I was reading about that and keep sending the guns.”
However, Murray then introduced another individual, Conor Claxton, to Mr Logan and asked him to teach him about gun-running. However, after Claxton recruited three others, the four new gun-runners got caught.
At the time, the White House said in a statement that “there was never any proven link to the top levels of the IRA”. The lawyer who prosecuted the ‘Florida Four’ has claimed that senior White House officials put him under extreme pressure to withdraw the claim that the guns were for the IRA.
The evidence from Mr Logan contradicts the US Government position. He said that the American administration knew exactly what was going on, despite its statement.
Mr Logan has seen his life implode in recent times, struggling with alcohol, drugs and ending up in prison for several months. The former stockbroker, who at the time of the gun-running lives in a million dollar house, said he was speaking out now because he now had nothing to lose.
Murray declined to be interviewed by Spotlight but gave the programme a statement in which he said that the accusations were “without foundation”.
He went on to say he had never been “arrested, detained or interviewed’ about any of the allegations and said that similar claims had been made over a decade ago. If there had been any evidence, he said “the PSNI would have acted”.
He said that his focus was and remained on helping, in whatever way possible, to consolidate the peace and political processes.
However, land registry files show that Murray bought a house from Claxton just months after his arrest.
Mr Logan told Spotlight: “I am sitting here talking to you now. I have no risk for any of the activities that I did for the IRA — for buying [and] sending any weapons. I cant be arrested. I have immunity.”