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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
Did you pull the trigger?
No, I didn’t, as a matter of fact. But I’m not trying to say I’m innocent or anything now – don’t be printing that angle. I take full responsibility. I don’t think I can tell a lie on that one either. There was a number of people involved, (but) it wasn’t me anyway. But that’s not to say I wasn’t involved. I was the leader of the gang, right? I was the OC of the squad. I took them on the raid and the raid went wrong. The shooting broke out in a traffic accident. It was over in a second or two. One of our crew murdered one of them. Shot one of them. They were firing machine guns and we were firing shotguns. It was self-defence, if you want to say that. There was two Garda dead. That was the breaks. The luck of the draw.
What was your initial reaction to your sentence?
I was involved with the offences for which I was charged. And I was content with the sentence. I thought the sentence was fair. I have no grievance about it. If I have to do 40 years, I’ll do 40 years. But then the Good Friday Peace Agreement came along, which makes it a different story. But there’s a question of remission, anyway. You can’t give a man such a sentence and then change it to ‘without the right to remission’.
Peter Pringle was later picked up for being part of this gang and, after serving 15 years, was exonerated. Did you know him?
I can’t talk about Peter Pringle. You’ll have to talk to Peter Pringle about Peter Pringle!
I heard Peter Pringle is bringing out a book?
Well, yeah… But I’m not Peter Pringle! I’m not interested in these conflict of interest things that go on.
Do you have any remorse?
I have no remorse for the crime I was involved in. None whatsoever.
But do you have any sympathy for the two Gardai, killed while carrying out their duties?
That’s my private business. That’s a private affair.
You are not coming across as a sympathetic or remorseful person…
I don’t want to come across that way. I signed the Good Friday Peace Agreement – I want out. And I’m sorry about the Gardai. I didn’t mean to kill members of An Garda Siochana. They were some of my best friends when I was out there. It isn’t a question of remorse, the Gardai were my buddies when I was out there. I had my fingers in many pies!