Death of former IRA leader who ‘regretted nothing’

Belfast republican Billy McKee pictured in 2011. Photo: Mal McCann
Belfast republican Billy McKee pictured in 2011. Photo: Mal McCann

A founding member of the Provisional IRA, who said he regretted none of the atrocities carried out by the terrorist organisation, has died in Belfast aged 97.

Billy McKee had been a lifelong IRA member dating back to the 1930s, but left the Provos and switched allegiance to the anti-peace process Republican Sinn Fein (RSF) in the 1980s

He is widely regarded as having been a former head of the IRA in Belfast.

On Wednesday, RSF posted a message on Twitter extending its sympathy to the McKee family.

It said: “Republican Sinn Féin send its deepest sympathy to the family and comrades of IRA Volunteer Billy McKee who died this morning.”

Following the murder of a PSNI officer by dissident republicans in 2011, the veteran republican was quoted in a News Letter article as saying Ronan Kerr “knew what was in front of him,” and also refused to criticise the Provos for any Troubles-era atrocities.

Commenting on the Bloody Friday bombing in Belfast city centre that claimed nine lives and injured 130 people, McKee replied that it “didn’t come off as expected”.

In similar fashion, McKee had no sympathy for the family of Jean McConville – the mother-of-10 who was abducted and killed by the IRA in 1972.

“All I know is that Mrs McConville was found out...working for the Brits,” he said.

“She was warned to stop it. She persisted and carried on working for the Brits. It left people outside with no alternative,” McKee added.

The allegation that the Mrs McConville was passing information to the security forces was later discredited by the NI Police Ombudsman.

Although the IRA issued an apology in 2002 to the families of those killed and injured by the 22 blasts during 80 minutes of carnage on Bloody Friday, McKee told the Irish News: “I’m not going to condemn it or the men that carried it out. No way.”

McKee said Sinn Fein “betrayed the republican movement” by signing up to the Good Friday Agreement and allowing decommissioning.

He described himself as a regular mass-goer, and said he had no regrets about his life.

“From I was 15 until 65 I was in some way involved. I have had plenty of time since to think if I was right or I was wrong.

“I regret nothing,” he said.