NewsNorthern Ireland

DISSIDENT MAYHEM: Light shone on secretive republican chief

Northern IrelandBy Paula Mackin
Shay McGrane
Shay McGrane
Bernard McGinn
Bernard McGinn

A border dissident crime gang is in the dock over the booby trap bomb attack in Crossmaglen.

Criminals in the South Armagh and North Louth areas are scrambling for cover after their involvement in the bombing which left Frank McCabe Junior seriously injured.

Since the senseless attack there have been investigations within the republican community to discover who was involved in the attack that almost claimed the recently married man’s sight.

The Sunday World can reveal that the men responsible are now under the spotlight having  been identified and are terrified that their act of violence against an innocent man will mark the demise of their criminal operations and the activities of Oglaigh na hEireann in the area.

Those identified are a small criminal gang of around half a dozen individuals aligned to the OnH grouping, as revealed by the Sunday World last week.

However we can now reveal that they are working under the direct control of ONH’s so-called chief of staff, Shay McGrane, once sentenced to four years in jail for taking part in a terror training camp. His most trusted cohorts are Omagh bomb suspects Colm Murphy and Oliver Treanor.

 Colm Murphy

All three high profile dissidents are now said to be desperate to distance themselves from those directly involved in the attack as anger within the republican community in South Armagh escalates.

The Sunday World understands the booby trap gang is headed by a man in his 40s who lives on the southern side of the border near  Cullyhanna . He was a former close ally of Bernard McGinn, the man jailed in connection with the IRA sniper team in South Armagh but was later exposed as a state agent.

Before the death of McGinn, who was sentenced to 490 years in jail, the pair were heavily involved in widespread extortion in the north Monaghan and south Armagh areas.

The other two men who were actively involved in the attack are also from the Cullyhanna area. We are currently prevented from revealing their identities.

One of the men is in his 20s and has recently formed close links with Gerard Mackin, and who is now living in the Dundalk area.

In 2008 Belfast man Mackin was convicted of the murder of Edward Burns in the Bog Meadows area of Belfast the previous year. Three years later his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in Dublin.

Mackin had also been due to stand trial in 2011 on charges of demanding money with menaces on behalf of the INLA in Monaghan and for membership of an illegal organisation, in this case Oglaigh ne hEireann. The charges were withdrawn on the eve of the trial.

The third is a man in his 30s and together they carried out the gun attack on local man Michael Bellew and recently planted a make shift device at a South Armagh Orange hall under the banner of the Irish Volunteers.

Bellew was beaten and shot in both legs on the orders of two family members  from the area who make up the  mob.

They are part of a very wealthy family, one of whom is reported to be a prolific smuggler of cigarettes and tobacco.  They have been able to engage openly in their activities and the brazen nature of their operation has led to speculation they are being protected.

“The OnH gang in Cullyhanna are little more than an extension of their criminal operation and they are the reason why Michael Bellew was shot and the subsequent annoyance experienced by Frank McCabe jnr and Mihael Carragher for supporting Bellew,” explained one local source.

McCabe jnr is the son of a well-known, veteran republican, also called Frank, while Carragher is believed to have been the intended target of the booby trap device.

“The attack on Francis McCabe junior was the last thing any of them needed, it was not thought out and it has backfired spectacularly. It has caused serious backlash within the community in the Crossmaglen area and brought unwanted focus on to all the various gangs. The ONH operation in the area was already tiny but this attack will finish it off,” said one security source.

Thousands of Sinn Fein supporters gathered in the area last Sunday at a commemoration for dead IRA men Brendan Moley and Brendan Burns. It was a show of strength in the wake of the attack and a warning to the criminal gangs that the community were united and would no longer tolerate their activities.