Daily Ireland

Special Branch under fire

The family of Eoin Marley, the Irish People’s Liberation Organisation member killed by the IRA in 1990, has welcomed the Police Ombudsman’s report into his killing.
The report from Nuala O’Loan was published yesterday.
It blamed Special Branch for withholding information relevant to his murder.
Eoin Morley was shot dead by the IRA at his home in Newry, Co Down, in February 1990 as part of a dispute between the IPLO and the Irish Republican Army.
Ivan Morley said the family also believed that Special Branch gave the go-ahead for his brother’s murder in order to protected a high-ranking informer inside the IRA.
“We know that the quartermaster in the Newry area at that time was a man who has subsequently publicly admitted being an informer,” he said.
The weapon used to kill Eoin Morley would only have been moved with this man’s knowledge. It is therefore inevitable that Special Branch knew about the murder in advance but chose to let it go ahead, according to Ivan Morley.
“We are pleased that Nuala O’Loan’s report has shown up the Special Branch. We never expected to find a paper trail linking the Special Branch directly to killing our brother but this report is supportive of our position.”
The Morley family has also accused Special Branch of trying to create a feud between the IRA and IPLO through the killing of their brother.
Among other things, the Police Ombudsman’s report said that Special Branch withheld information from detectives investigating the murder.
Even though the RUC built up high-grade intelligence on those suspected of plotting Eoin Morley’s shooting, Mrs O’Loan discovered that nobody was ever arrested.
Her assessment has added weight to the Morley family’s allegation.
Police were also unable to tell Mrs O’Loan who took charge of the inquiry.
However, after examining files on the 1990 killing, Mrs O’Loan said she found no evidence to back claims it had been planned by the RUC.
After the killing, the IRA claimed that Eoin Morley had been working as an informer.
The IRA later withdrew this allegation and apologised to the family for it.
Mrs O’Loan’s examination of Special Branch files uncovered ten separate items of information that may have been vital to the murder investigation yet were never passed on to detectives.
The anti-terrorist unit’s failures were unacceptable, the report found.
Mrs O’Loan said, “In the absence of any indication as to who held the information and why, it has not been possible to draw any conclusions, other than to say this was but one of many occasions on which intelligence held in headquarters, which was relevant to the investigation of the most serious of crimes, was not transmitted to those police officers carrying out investigations.”
The ombudsman’s assessment echoed an earlier dossier she compiled on the hunt for the Omagh bombers.
On that occasion, her team established that critical warnings of an imminent terrorist strike were never relayed to officers in the Co Tyrone market town, where the Real IRA killed 29 people in 1998.
The latest probe was launched after relatives of Eoin Morley alleged that police instigated the killing in an attempt to ignite a republican feud and later refused to arrest the chief suspect.
The 23-year-old victim was gunned down at his girlfriend’s home in Newry, Co Down, on Easter Sunday, 1990 amid tensions between the IRA and the IPLO, a republican splinter group.
As well as backing the family’s view that the police did not conduct a thorough and proper investigation, Mrs O’Loan’s team established a number of other significant failings.
The ombudsman’s investigators interviewed two RUC officers.
Both denied having led the murder inquiry.
With only one detective still believed to be working in the PSNI, the force could not conclusively state who had responsibility.
Although there was no evidence to suggest that a crime had been committed, the confusion has stopped any disciplinary action being taken.
Forensic experts later disclosed to police that a gun found in unrelated house searches was the murder weapon, yet the development was never pursued, the report found.
A fingerprint, masks, overalls and gloves were also seized.
Despite having information linking a named man to the house where the material was found, the murder file did not list him as a suspect or check him against the fingerprint recovered.
When this man was arrested two months later over a separate incident, a hair sample was taken but it was never compared to the clothing found earlier, according to Mrs O’Loan.
She partially substantiated allegations that detectives had failed to arrest a known suspect referred to as Man A.
“High-grade intelligence was held by the RUC in relation to a number of individuals who were named as being responsible for the murder.
“The individuals were not arrested,” the ombudsman said.
“The practice of the RUC Special Branch not to disseminate information and the consequences of this inevitably led to suspicion that individuals were being protected.
“The PSNI has recently reorganised its crime department to professionalise serious crime investigation.
“There is now a much greater emphasis on the training of detectives.
“I believe these developments should give the public a greater confidence in the present ability of the police to tackle murder and serious crime.”
A PSNI statement said, “As the Police Ombudsman points out and we would reiterate, wide-ranging reforms have taken place.
“A new Crime Operations Department has been established, bringing Special Branch and Crime under the command of a single assistant chief constable, ensuring better sharing of information between both branches.
“The oversight commissioner has said that these new protocols, which have been implemented, meet the ‘best practice’ requirements of any police service in the world.”

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