IRA founder, 89, has ‘no regrets’

Belfast republican Billy McKee Pic Mal McCann 2/5/11 story Diana
Belfast republican Billy McKee Pic Mal McCann 2/5/11 story Diana

A FOUNDING member of the IRA has said he regrets none of the countless atrocities the organisation carried out.

Billy McKee, 89, is the former officer commanding of the IRA in Belfast and was on its ruling army council.

He refused to condemn the horrific Bloody Friday bombings in Belfast city centre which killed nine people and injured 130 others, saying it “didn’t come off as expected”.

Bloody Friday involved 22 bombs exploding in 80 minutes on July 21, 1972.

Although the IRA issued an apology in 2002 to the families of those killed and injured during the attacks, McKee this week told the Irish News: “I’m not going to condemn it or the men that carried it out. No way.”

McKee has no sympathy either for the family of Jean McConville - the mother-of-10 who was abducted and killed by the IRA in 1972 - or the family of PSNI constable Ronan Kerr who was recently murdered by dissident republicans.

“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.”

Regarding Constable Kerr, McKee said the young man “knew what was in front of him” when he decided to join the PSNI.

McKee also dismissed as “a joke” Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams’ continued denials that he was ever a member of the IRA.

McKee insisted: “He was chief of staff, army council and OC Belfast yet he says he was never in the IRA.

“For him to get up and say that was the daftest thing I have ever heard. There were people who hadn’t laughed for years that enjoyed that joke.”

He also accused Mr Adams of joining the republican movement for his own gain.

“They (Adams family) were stalwart republicans but when Gerry Adams came into the republican movement he came in to promote his own political future.”

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

McKee first joined the republican movement when he was 15 and was imprisoned two years later.

He is best known for having taken part in an attack on the Newtownards Road from St Matthew’s Parish Church in the Short Strand in 1970.

Two Protestants were killed as well as a Catholic man who was accidentally killed by the republican side.

McKee was shot five times but survived.

He went on to spend 36 days on hunger strike in prison but later left the Provisional IRA in 1977. In the mid-1980s, he joined Republican Sinn Fein.

McKee described himself as a regular mass-goer. He 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.”