Sinn Fein strategist Sean Murray could face Florida gun-running charges

Prosecutors are considering whether a senior Sinn Fein strategist should face charges over consignments of guns smuggled into Northern Ireland after the 1997 Provisional IRA ceasefire.

In April 2014, a BBC Spotlight programme contained claims Sean ‘Spike’ Murray conspired with Florida businessman Mike Logan to secure a large number of Glock handguns from the US for the Provos.

Sean Murray (right) was part of a Sinn Fein delegation that met the chief constable in 2015. Also pictured (from left) Caral Ni Chuilin, Gerry Kelly and Alex Maskey

Sean Murray (right) was part of a Sinn Fein delegation that met the chief constable in 2015. Also pictured (from left) Caral Ni Chuilin, Gerry Kelly and Alex Maskey

Mr Logan gave a candid interview to Spotlight but he was granted immunity for prosecution in return for his cooperation with investigating authorities.

He died suddenly in Florida in October 2016.

Following the Spotlight broadcast, the PSNI said: “PIRA gun-running 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.”

At the time, Mr Murray denied any wrong-doing and said the allegations made against him were “without foundation”.

In August 2015, while still under investigation in relation to the gun smuggling allegations, Mr Murray was among a small number of Sinn Fein representatives who attended a meeting with the Chief Constable George Hamilton at PSNI headquarters.

His audience with senior officers angered a number of unionists, as well as the sister of one of two RUC officers shot dead by the IRA with a Glock pistol in Lurgan in 1997.

The chief constable was again heavily criticised when he shared a platform with Mr Murray at a West Belfast Festival event in August this year – the ‘Stuck In the Past’ debate at St Mary’s University College.

It has now been revealed that the file on Mr Murray was forwarded to the PPS just weeks earlier.

Commenting on the debate at St Mary’s, former Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said the sight of Mr Hamilton sitting alongside a former IRA man at this event would be “difficult” for many victims.

He added: “If you are an RUC widow and see a chief constable sitting with someone who was involved in the organisation which murdered your husband, it would be hard to swallow.”

Also participating was loyalist Winston Irvine, a member of the PUP, which has links to the UVF.

Following the St Mary’s event, victims’ group the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) said it had been contacted by a number of people who had expressed concern at the make-up of the panel.

Ken Funston of SEFF told the News Letter it “alarms” victims and survivors to see the chief constable in such company.

He said: “I have received numerous phone calls and messages from innocent victims and survivors who were disgusted that the police chief and the victims’ commissioner would accept that it was ok to share a platform and debate with them.”

However, former PSNI assistant chief constable Alan McQuillan defended Mr Hamilton’s decision to take part in the debate, stating: “The chief constable is absolutely right to be out there arguing his corner in this kind of environment.

“I don’t think it compromises his impartiality in any way.”

Earlier this week, in response to a News Letter inquiry, PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “A file has been submitted to the Public Prosecution Service and we await their decision.”

A PPS spokesperson later confirmed: “The PPS has received a file from police in relation to an allegation of possession of firearms with intent against a 65-year-old man.

“The file, which was received in June 2018, is under active consideration and a decision will issue in due course.”

A spokesman for the PSNI said: “The chief constable has stated many times that he is willing to have uncomfortable conversations around the past and that participation in events like ‘Stuck in the Past’ is an important part of building and maintaining the peace.

“He has been clear that it does not in any way fetter or restrict his ability or that of any PSNI officer to enforce the law without fear or favour.”

Sinn Fein has not yet responded to a request for comment.