Tohill death threat on Website

Andersonstown News reporter Ciarán Barnes spoke to Bobby Tohill just two hours before his ‘kidnap’ ordeal

Less than two hours before his alleged abduction on Friday night Bobby Tohill told the Andersonstown News that “certain elements” of the IRA were conspiring with loyalists to have him murdered.

On Thursday the Andersonstown News discovered both the UDA and UVF were in possession of his secret South Belfast address and movements. When confronted with the revelations outside Kelly’s Cellars, where we had agreed to meet, the leading dissident republican accused IRA members of waging a vendetta against him and passing the information on to loyalists. “They want the UDA or UVF to do their dirty work for them,” said Tohill.

“There are those within the IRA who want to murder me.”

The former IRA and INLA OC of the Lower Falls was adamant that mainstream republicans wanted him dead because of his links with the Real IRA. Bobby Tohill denied being the Belfast OC of the Real IRA, a charge levelled at him following the murder of Danny McGurk by the group in August last year.

However, the 45-year-old admitted to offering the Real IRA “military advice”.

“I have never been a member of the Real IRA,” claimed a defiant Tohill. “I have friends who are members and because of this sections of the IRA believe I am involved in dissident republican activity. There are those in the Provos, who because of my reputation, believe I could attract a lot of support to the Real IRA if I were their Belfast OC. It was this that sparked my fall-out with them.”

Bobby Tohill moved back to Belfast in 2001 after a decade in Dublin during which he served a prison sentence for firearms offences and was, he says, involved with ‘vigilante’ groups tackling drug dealers. He says his return to Belfast was prompted by a fall-out with republicans in the south.

“I was accused of shooting up a senior IRA man’s house and of being a mercenary killer; again another complete lie,” added Bobby.

“I was involved with vigilante gangs in the south but I never acted against fellow republicans.”

Tohill flirted with the Real IRA on his return north but claims never to have been ‘green booked’ – the slang term for swearing an oath.

“I offered them military advice,” he said.

“But after last August’s murder of Danny McGurk I severed all links with dissident republicanism.

“I walked away from everything and started a new life in a hostel in South Belfast. But because I was seen as the Real IRA Belfast OC certain members of the IRA wanted to kill me in retaliation for Danny McGurk. I had nothing to do with Danny’s killing and condemn those that did. I knew him for 30 years and was sorry to see a good man murdered.”

According to Bobby Tohill the Danny McGurk murder finished the Real IRA in Belfast. “The Provos closed them down in a very cynical fashion,” he said. “The Real IRA can bleat about being strong but they are dead, completely finished.”

Throughout his meeting with the Andersonstown News, Bobby Tohill appeared nervous and agitated. He showed me prescribed medication he was receiving for stress caused, he said, by 30 years of conflict.

Tohill was also suspicious that he was being monitored by the PSNI. This fear was reinforced when, during the interview, a friend approached to warn him that the “peelers were looking on”.

Seconds later a uniformed patrol passed us as we spoke.

“I could get whacked at any time,” he said. “I’m constantly looking over my shoulder and never have a gun far away from me. That’s why I’m taking all these tablets.

“I’m in a bad way but I’m not leaving my new home and I’ll still walk the Falls Road during the day. Night is a different matter though, I wouldn’t dare enter West Belfast after dark.”

Bobby Tohill was adamant that he would soon face an attempt on his life, claiming on several occasions that he was likely to be dead before Monday. Despite this he was keen to stress that his argument was with certain sections of the IRA and not the movement as a whole.

“I want to make it clear that my problems are with certain elements of the IRA,” said Tohill. “It is not the movement on a whole, there are just one or two people who are waging a vendetta against me.”

A violent republican since the outbreak of the Troubles, Bobby Tohill has served more than a decade in jail.

In 1985 he was sentenced to life for the murder of a UDR man in 1981. However, he was freed two years later along with 26 others after a judge ruled the man who gave evidence against him – INLA supergrass Harry Kirkpatrick – was an unreliable witness.

In 1987 he was shot in the neck during an INLA feud. After this attack he moved to Dublin, settled down with his girlfriend and fathered four children. Three years ago following a fall-out with local republicans he returned to Belfast.

Despite his violent past Bobby Tohill now sees no place for the gun in Irish society.

“The nationalist people want peace and the paramilitaries should respond to that,” he explained.

“This is no future for the IRA, Real IRA, or any of the different groupings whether they be republican or loyalist.

“I don’t agree with the Good Friday Agreement, it’s not what thousands of republicans died or went to jail for, but I do agree with the peace process. "All I want to do is get on with my life, although I firmly believe I will die at the hands of the Provisionals. The armed struggle has cost me everything – my family and friends, but I still have my pride and I will not allow my good name to be destroyed. Renegade IRA members can try and take my life but they won’t take my pride.”

As we parted company Bobby Tohill told me that if anything happened to him in the coming days: “to tell the truth. Tell them everything that I have told you.”

Two hours later and his face was all over the TV news.

Journalist:: Ciaran Barnes

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