Terrorist past of members of group awarded £1.3m

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SEVERAL leading figures at an organisation in Northern Ireland that was awarded £1.3 million by the European Union have terrorism convictions or were IRA hunger-strikers.

Investigative website Exaro News revealed last week how Northern Irish and Irish government officials approved the grant to support ex-IRA prisoners to Coiste Na N-Iarchimi, a UK-registered company based in Belfast that failed to comply with company law.

Michael Culbert, Coiste’s long-time spokesman and company secretary since March 2012, served 15 years in the Maze prison between 1978 and 1993 for the murder of a policeman in Northern Ireland.

Culbert initially told Exaro that Coiste did not have to file accounts to Companies House, but later admitted to “an error here by our finance staff”.

The EU paid most of the money, with the rest coming from the UK and Ireland. The Northern Irish and Irish governments said that an EU funding body was responsible for vetting applications, while it claimed that proper procedures were followed.

One of the company’s two directors listed at Companies House when it was struck off in 2011 after two official warnings over failing to file accounts and returns for four years was Caral Ni Chuilin, Northern Ireland’s culture minister. She was convicted as an IRA terrorist of possession of explosives with intent, and jailed in 1989 for eight years.

She resigned her Coiste directorship in December 2011 after Exaro tried to contact her about the EU’s funding of the company. Coiste accounts identified her as the company’s “treasurer” and one of four cheque signatories.

Thomas Quigley, another director of Coiste, was jailed in 1981 for the bombing of Chelsea Barracks in London that killed two passers-by and injured 20 Irish guards. He was released in 1998, after serving 16 years.

Quigley was appointed as a Coiste director in March 2012, although company accounts listed him as a director and member of the executive committee for the years to October 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Another director on the board since March last year is Kevin Mulgrew, who was sentenced to jail terms totalling 963 years on 84 charges that arose from the first IRA ‘supergrass’ trial in 1983, although his convictions were later quashed.

Jackie McMullan, a former “political education officer” for Coiste who is named as a director in annual returns for October 2000 and 2001, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1976 for attempted murder after shots were fired outside the house of a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

He spent 48 days on hunger strike in the Maze prison near Belfast in 1981. He was released in 1992.

Raymond McCartney, a Sinn Fein member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and another former hunger striker in the Maze, is listed as a Coiste director in company accounts for the years to October 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2006. He is also named as a trustee for the years ending October 2007 to 2010.

McCartney was jailed for life in 1979 for murdering an RUC officer, and became the IRA’s officer commanding in the Maze. The conviction was overturned in 2007, and he was awarded compensation two years ago.