The attempt to kill Francis McCabe Jnr outside
Crossmaglen on Wednesday represents a new, violent escalation in the activities
of crime gangs in the south Armagh and north Louth region.
of those involved are also central to an unrepresentative militarist faction
opposed to the Peace Process and Sinn Féin’s political strategy. This latest
escalation follows death threats against Frank McCabe Snr and Conor Murphy MP
in recent weeks.
victims of these gangs’ activities include shooting Michael Bellew in
Cullyhanna a year ago and killing Garda Adrian Donohoe in Lordship just over
two years ago.
PSNI and An Garda Síochána investigations, no one has ever been prosecuted for
these crimes. The policing response to this latest incident will be very closely
scrutinised both within south Armagh and wider afield.
reality carries huge implications for policing and community relations in south
Armagh. This area is a republican heartland and bedrock of support for Sinn
Féin’s peace strategy.
party’s electoral strength in the area and widespread respect for the local
republican leadership was a central element in Sinn Féin’s decision to support
policing in 2007. Since then, party activists and representatives have worked
tirelessly to build important relationships with the PSNI and also An Garda to
make policing accountable, and to establish partnerships between both and the
this period, there has been a sinister and systematic upswing in criminality
across the area. Diesel laundering, cigarette smuggling, cattle rustling,
vehicle theft, financial extortion of local businesses and more have all become
a blight on the local community. The gangs involved operate across the Border;
they co-operate with each other and are inter-generational.
Most importantly, the police know their identities.
are career criminals and yet both the PSNI and An Garda have failed to act
against them, despite the active support of local people.
is a widespread belief that the key figures among these gangs are acting with
An obvious corollary is that another agenda is in
It is no coincidence that a new propaganda offensive
driven by some of the island’s most notorious ‘Crime’ and ‘Security’
journalists has begun to demonise south Armagh in particular by disgracefully
attributing the upsurge in criminality to republicans.
The reality is that, as the gangs operating have
extended and expanded their range of criminal activities, the most prominent
republican families associated with the Sinn Féin leadership – from
Ballybinaby, through Dromintee, to Cullyhanna, Crossmaglen, and Camlough – have
all been physically attacked, threatened and targeted.
concerted effort is underway to try and deflect republican activists in south
Armagh and north Louth from promoting Sinn Féin’s political strategy. However,
whatever agendas or agencies are at work, they will fail. The local republican
leadership and support base is just as determined to succeed in this phase of
political struggle as well.
is for that reason these violent, destabilising, criminal actions are
responsible are a cancer within the local community and a threat to the
political and Peace Processes. But the progress within our society in terms of
democratic change and support for policing cannot be taken for granted.
PSNI and An Garda have a responsibility to prove they are up to the task and
root these criminal elements out once and for all.
proud people of south Armagh and north Louth must stand united to demand these
criminals and militarists get off their backs.
surrounding Border community should also mobilise in solidarity with their
south Armagh neighbours against this criminal scourge.
Sunday 1 March, a commemoration will remember Óglaigh Brendan Burns and Brendan
Moley in Cullyhanna. Republicans from across Ireland should attend and stand in
solidarity and support with the McCabe family and all the republican families
under threat from these criminals.
resounding message needs to be sent to them to get off the backs of our people
and to get off the back of the Peace Process.