PSNI ‘no comment’ changes to full investigation within an hour

Sinn Fein negotiator Sean 'Spike' Murray during the final day of talks between Northern Ireland's five main parties and former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass
Sinn Fein negotiator Sean 'Spike' Murray during the final day of talks between Northern Ireland's five main parties and former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass

The PSNI last night launched an investigation into allegations that a senior Sinn Fein figure imported guns to Northern Ireland after the ceasefire and that they were used to murder policemen.

The BBC’s Spotlight programme broadcast an extended investigation into the allegations of a former Florida gunrunner, Mike Logan, that between 1995 and 1999 he smuggled guns to the IRA at the request of Sean ‘Spike’ Murray.

The News Letter contacted the PSNI press office yesterday morning to ask if police were investigating or would investigate the allegations.

After several hours, a press officer responded to say that the police would not be making any comment on the issue, giving the impression that police were not enthusiastic about a new investigation.

But just an hour later, a brief PSNI statement said: “PIRA gunrunning from Florida is now subject to reinvestigation which will include an examination of existing evidence together with the examination of any potential new evidence that has come to light in the last few days.”

Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson, who met the PSNI yesterday, said the Spotlight programme raised “huge questions” about why Murray had never been questioned.

“Very specific allegations were made about Sean ‘Spike’ Murray which have been in the possession of security services on both sides of the Atlantic.

“The public has a right to know why Mr Murray has never been arrested or even questioned,” he said.

DUP MLA Arlene Foster said that justice had been “corrupted” and added: “The very foundations of where we are are threatened.

“People in the community are perceiving that justice is being denied and we have to challenge that.”

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said the revelations would have been “devastating for the families of murdered RUC officers John Graham and David Johnston”, the two officers who Florida gunrunner Mike Logan said Murray told him had been killed with one of the guns.

He added: “Look at the 1998 Belfast Agreement. Paragraph two contains two key words for me: mutual trust.

“I sat with Sean Murray during the Haass talks. I sat at the leaders’ meetings after that as he sat at Martin McGuinness’ right hand side....the police must investigate what was revealed on last night’s Spotlight programme. And do it thoroughly.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said the revelations “confirm the utter corruption which has lain at the heart of the ‘peace process’”.

“Unless, as I suspect, such corruption and cover up still dictates the agenda, then, Murray will be arrested over both gunrunning and the Lurgan murders.

“Today, courtesy of the perverse ‘peace process’ he struts the corridors of Stormont, while his IRA’s victims still grieve their loss. Is he yet another untouchable, like the Sinn Fein leadership he serves?”

He added: “If the IRA was still arming, while pretending peace, then, why should anyone believe the Omagh bombing of this time was not also within their orbit of control?”

Murray declined to be interviewed by Spotlight but in a statement said that the accusations were “without foundation”.

Academic slams BBC Spotlight

A Queen’s University academic has slammed the BBC for Tuesday night’s Spotlight programme, denouncing it as “conflict journalism at its worst and so juxtaposed to [the Irish] state visit, playing into hands of the bigots? [sic] How’s that?”

John Brewer, Professor of PostConflict Studies at Queen’s, made the comments on Twitter before Spotlight had even been broadcast.

When asked if he was suggesting the BBC should not broadcast programmes which may be politically sensitive, he said: “No. Just intrigued by its timing and what was designed by it, that’s all.”

The academic also claimed that BBC managers “need to ponder on what socially responsible journalism means”.

A BBC spokeswoman vigorously defended its journalism. She said: “This story had clear public interest and was based on thorough investigative journalism. Its scheduling was not intended to coincide with any other news stories or developments. Spotlight is routinely broadcast on Tuesday evenings. Last night’s investigation had no editorial link, or connection, with President Higgins’ state visit to the UK.”