Limerick Garda widow rejects Sinn Féin leader’s IRA gangland comments

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Ann McCabe

“My view will never change, murder is murder, and the IRA were up to their eyes in murder and carnage.”

Ann McCabe, widow of Limerick detective Garda Jerry McCabe murdered by an IRA gang in Adare, hit out at comments by Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald that there is no comparison between the IRA and gangland criminals.

Ms McDonald told radio station Newstalk that she was “profoundly shocked” to learn that former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall was involved in criminality.

Last month, Mr Dowdall, who is an inmate at Limerick Prison, was  jailed for four years for facilitating the murder of Kinahan gang member David Byrne at a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel in 2016.

Mr Dowdall, who turned State witness in the Regency murder trial of Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch, was also convicted of interrogating, threatening and waterboarding a man in January 2015.

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Ms McDonald said that Mr Dowdall and members of the Provisional IRA were not comparable.

“Things happened in the course of a very long political conflict which, thank God, is now long over. There is no comparison between that and the threat that the so-called gangland crime epidemic poses,” she added .

Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was murdered by an IRA unit on June 7, 1996, when the killers rammed the detective’s car which was escorting a van delivering cash to post offices for old age pension payments.

The gang then fired up to 15 rounds into the Garda car, killing Detective McCabe and seriously wounding his partner and lifelong friend Detective Garda Ben O’Sullivan.

Detective O’Sullivan sustained 11 gunshot wounds but survived the attack, which eye witnesses reported seeing the killer reload his weapon before firing into the Garda car.

The State controversially accepted four of the gang’s guilty pleas to Detective McCabe’s manslaughter, but following their jailing, Sinn Fein politicians argued they should have been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Dismissing Deputy McDonald’s comments, Ann McCabe repeated former Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan’s declaration that “murder is murder”, regardless of the State’s acceptance of the gang’s guilty pleas to manslaughter.

Ann McCabe told the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show there was no difference between criminals and those in the IRA who murdered her husband.

“My husband wasn’t part of the Troubles at all. He had nothing to do with them. He was escorting money as was his partner Ben O’Sullivan, who has sadly died since,” said Ms McCabe.

“Murder to me is going up to the car they were in, shooting indiscriminately into the car. They stopped and then they started again, just to be sure.”

Ms McCabe said she felt there have been attempts to convince younger generations of Sinn Fein’s “way of thinking…that’s the sad reality of it.

“The van they were escorting was in front of them. They were rammed from the back and the gang started shooting. Jerry died instantly, three shots went into Jerry, Ben took about 11 or 12. He was a miracle, and he knew immediately that Jerry was dead.”

“That changed my life forever, and my family’s life. Life will never be the same, I have wonderful friends and wonderful family and grandkids, and they keep me going, but Jerry will never ever leave my mind. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.”

Ms McCabe said she is stopped in the street by people who congratulate her on speaking out about what happened to her husband.

“I was forced into doing it, I had nothing to do with politics. I was thrown in at the deep end. I felt after a while I had to speak up and say what was right, condemn the murder of my husband and many more victims of the IRA.”

Ms McCabe said the IRA gang that killed her husband and seriously wounded Ben O’Sullivan “were not soldiers, they were murderers, robbing the pensions of older people, that’s what they did”.