Sinn Fein under fire for silence over murder of former member

Eamon Collins' autobiography 'Killing Rage' had infuriated republicans
Eamon Collins' autobiography 'Killing Rage' had infuriated republicans

Sinn Fein’s silence about the murder of one of its former members stands as a “stinging indictment” of the party, a DUP MLA has said.

It concerns the killing of former IRA man Eamon Collins, whose death 20 years ago is the subject of a new police appeal.

Sinn Fein recently condemned the murder of Wayne Boylan in Warrenpoint and appealed for witnesses to come forward, as well as condemning “unreservedly” the murder of Ian Ogle in east Belfast and demanding police action against loyalist crime.

The News Letter attempted to solicit comment from the party on the Collins murder both last week and this week, but none has been received.

It comes after the party was accused by of sending “mixed messages” about its attitude to violence following the recent car bombing of Londonderry courthouse.

Mr Collins – a critic of the republican movement – was stabbed about 20 times in the face in what police described as a “frenzied” attack on January 27, 1999, after ignoring threats to leave Newry. On the 20th anniversary of the killing, police called on anyone with information to step forward, indicating they may be close to identifying an assailant.

Sinn Fein was recently criticised for tabling a council motion which avoided using the word ‘condemn’ in relation to the Londonderry car bomb.

DUP MP for East Londonderry Gregory Campbell said: “This issue of mixed messages is only being reinforced by the stance Sinn Fein are taking again.

“Here’s an example where, even 20 years after the event, they could be issuing a statement to try and be helpful, try to ensure whatever information some people in the vicinity may have could be passed to police in order to get to the truth. But they appear not to be prepared to co-operate.

“This issue is not going to go away. Sinn Fein have to clarify their attitude to violence. They simply can’t have it both ways.”

Colleague William Irwin, of the Newry & Armagh constituency where the murder happened, said: “We hear much from Sinn Fein as to truth and justice yet sadly we have heard little from that organisation to encourage people to assist in this ongoing investigation.

“That is another stinging indictment on Sinn Fein and once again shows just how hollow its continual calls for respect and integrity really are.”

In the years before his death Mr Collins wrote an expose of the IRA called ‘Killing Rage’ in which he detailed joining Sinn Fein, meeting top party figures, and being courted as a potential council candidate.

Part of the IRA’s intelligence network, Mr Collins broke under police interrogation in 1985 and gave evidence against himself and others.

He recanted his testimony, hoping he would be able to live in peace, but was exiled by the IRA once the court case against him collapsed.