Doug Beattie urges PSNI to seize and inspect weapons from exhibition for IRA men killed by SAS, Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew
Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew were killed by an SAS unit at a farm shed near Loughgall on October 9, 1990. Three AK-47s rifles were recovered nearby.
According to Troubles reference work Lost Lives, McCaughey had been injured earlier that year in a shoot out with soldiers in Cappagh, in which the IRA claimed two soldiers had been killed. He was disqualified from his seat as a Sinn Fein councillor at Dungannon District Council due to non-attendance, reportedly because he was receiving treatment for his wounds in the Republic of Ireland.
Dessie Grew was wanted for questioning about the murder of an RAF corporal in Germany and his six-month-old daughter. He was reported to have been jailed three times in the Republic and Northern Ireland from the 1970s to 1980 on terror charges.
Although both men were reportedly armed neither fired any shots, provoking legal challenges that they could have been arrested.
Victims group Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) expressed concern that the anniversary of their murder might result in a commemoration, including the display of what appeared to be AK-47s and other weapons in a museum type display. While it is likely the weapons are replicas or deactivated, UHRW said it had called on the PSNI to “seize” them and check their legitimacy in the same commemorations in 2010 and 2011 but that their requests were “simply ignored”.
UHRW Advocacy Worker Jonathan Larner said the display contains at least 15 apparent weapons ranging from assault rifles to pistols, and has been displayed previously on Youtube.
“Every time these weapons are put on show they cause IRA victims great distress,” he said. “Such exhibitions should not take place in a democratic society and the organisers must be prevented from doing this”.
UUP Justice Spokesman Doug Beattie said: “It is clear that the police should have confiscated these weapons when they were first reported as being on display. The fact that they did not is a mystery and therefore a number of questions need to be asked.” He said it was imperative that the PSNI investigated the nature of the weapons to see if any terror-related laws were being broken.
He noted that he had also opposed weapons used by loyalist terrorists for murder being put on display in the Imperial War Museum, and said he would be writing to the Chief Constable to press for action on the Tyrone display.
Invited to respond to Mr Larner and Mr Beattie, a PSNI spokesman said: “Should police become aware of any intention to display weaponry in any capacity ahead of the event, appropriate enquiries will be made.”
On Friday morning the News Letter invited the organisers to comment but no response was forthcoming.
However by Friday afternoon it posted a message on Facebook saying a commemoration planned for tomorrow, Sunday October 11, was being cancelled due to Covid-19 “for the health and safety of our people”.
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