Tohill charge linked to his refusal to make statement to police
04 May 2004
By Alan Erwin
THE dissident republican at the centre of an alleged IRA kidnap plot yesterday stormed out of a courtroom where he faced a threat-to-kill charge.
Bobby Tohill, aged 46, claimed he had been framed as he resisted attempts to keep him in the dock at Belfast Magistrates Court.
Tohill walked out but remained in custody after a detective denied his arrest was because he refused to make a statement about the suspected abduction which provoked a political crisis in Northern Ireland.
The court also heard how the former INLA prisoner gave a scathing assessment of the police investigation into his case to the ceasefire watchdogs brought in to examine whether the IRA were behind the attempted kidnapping in February.
In a devastating dossier on ongoing paramilitary activities, rushed out last month because of the furore over the Tohill case, the Independent Monitoring Commission backed Chief Constable Hugh Orde's claim that the IRA planned and carried out the attempted kidnapping.
Tohill was accused of threatening to kill a man named as Patrick Ward on March 27 and he was also charged with possessing a real or imitation gun and going into a west Belfast tower block armed with a pistol and a baton with intent to cause Mr Ward grievous bodily harm.
He made no reply when charged with the first offence and denied the other two charges.
A detective sergeant insisted he could connect him with the alleged offences.
Defence solicitor Shane O'Neill asked the sergeant if he was aware that Mr Ward had made two retraction statements.
The detective confirmed he knew of one withdrawal, as he had recorded it.
He was unaware that police had twice stopped Tohill since the alleged offences but reassured him he was not wanted for any crimes, the court was told.
Mr O'Neill then challenged the sgt as to whether "the police decision to charge Mr Tohill been related to his refusal to make a statement to the police in respect of his alleged abduction?" to which the sgt replied: "no."
The kidnapping incident dealt a massive blow to attempts to restore Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive, which was suspended 18 months earlier over an alleged IRA spy-ring inside the government.
Outraged unionists demanded tough sanctions against Sinn Féin after Mr Orde blamed the IRA for the abduction.
In response, the IMC brought forward its first report on paramilitary activity and included a section on the Tohill case in which it pointed the finger at the Provisional IRA.
In his absence, Resident Magistrate Harry McKibben remanded him in custody until May 28.
**And in another mighty-white-of-them move the pissni say:
Police union willing to talk to republicans on pay
03/05/2004 - 14:02:45
Rank-and-file PSNI officers pledged today to talk to republicans once they endorse Northern Ireland’s new force.
Even though the IRA killed hundreds of their colleagues, the Police Federation insisted it would deal with Sinn Féin if the party ends its boycott.
A spokesman for the union, which represents 10,000 officers up to the rank of chief inspector, accepted the move would be tough but necessary.
“It will grate with guys to have to do that, given what has happened in the past,” he said.
“But if Sinn Féin are on the policing board inevitably we will talk to them. They will have responsibility for pay and conditions so we would be determined they hear it as it is.”
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have given no clue that their party is ready to join the authority which holds Chief Constable Hugh Orde to account.
With Sinn Féin holding out for further reforms to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, many observers believe it could be another year before republicans take the plunge.
But, despite the sensitivities involved in co-operating with the IRA’s political representatives, the federation is determined to portray itself as a progressive organisation.
Senior representatives travelled to Dublin last week to urge Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to back their bid to win a reprieve for the 1,600 full-time reserves set to be axed from next April.
As part of its attempt to clarify its role and attitude, the federation has stressed that once republicans become part of the policing set-up they will not be shunned.
“There’s always been this view that we are stuck in the dark ages,” the spokesman added.
“But we are making a hypothetical point that if Sinn Féin are involved in the fullness of time we will talk to them.”