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Once in never out
It is an old Republican principle. But it could also be applied to the attitude the authorities have taken to Ireland’s longest serving political prisoners, Paddy McCann and Colm O’Shea. Jailed for the killing of two Gardai during a bank raid in Roscommon in 1980, as the peace process reached its final stages they were asked to sign up to the Good Friday Agreement. They subsequently put their names on the dotted line. That was ten years ago. So why have they not been released in the meantime, like dozens of other former Paramilitary activists? In an extraordinary, confessional interview, PADDY MCCANN makes his case against the State.
Jason O'Toole, 03 Feb 2009
Bernice Morrissey, the widow of Sergeant Patrick Morrissey, in whose killing Michael McHugh was involved, said that 40-year sentences were, in her view, “non-negotiable”. Doesn’t she have a valid point?
I believe that I’m entitled to a quarter remission (of my sentence), you know? I don’t think it’s a question of negotiating with widows – that’s not how society is run, is it? We’ll negotiate with the State and the judiciary. I really think you should leave widows out of it.
Most would argue that robbing banks and killing members of the Garda was not a patriotic act…
Oh, they would. I was sentenced in the Special Criminal Court. They said I was in the INLA and they said I was in the IRA. I was treated as a political prisoner when they were going to hang me. But they have moved the goalposts now alright.
But that doesn’t answer that question, which is, that robbing banks and murdering two Gardai is not a patriotic act?
I’ve been involved in the deaths of loads of people. Why are you talking about two Gardai?
Two members of the Garda died in the shootout you were arrested for. How was that a patriotic act?
Yes, there was two Gardai. It wasn’t a patriotic act. In fact, it was an accident, right? If you want to just talk matter of fact – it was an accident. There was no intention to kill Gardai. It wasn’t on the cards. In fact, it was in a traffic accident – they came around the bend in a blind spot, on the wrong side. And everything else sprang out of that. The Gardai fired first. They blasted out the window. And anything that’s been said about the job after that is right. But the truth is that one Garda killed one Garda and members of the gang killed another Garda.
But weren’t you convicted in 1980 – along with Colm O’Shea and Peter Pringle – for the murders of John Morley and Henry Byrne, the two Gardai who were shot at the scene?
Look, the truth is that one Garda killed one Garda! The bullet ricoched in the car – he had a machine gun; he was firing it in the squad car with all the windows closed. They had the photographs with the front windscreen blown out on the bonnet because he fired from the inside out. I pleaded guilty to it, right? But it wasn’t an intentional act of going out and killing Gardai. It makes no difference to me. I can tell the truth. I have done my time for it. I’m entitled to remission.