RTE’s “negative stereotyping” of south Armagh condemned

November 10, 2014

Comments made during a recent RTE radio show on alleged criminality in the South Armagh region have prompted an angry response from Sinn Fein MLA Megan Fearon who condemned the “negative stereotyping” used during the programme which she said branded the people of South Armagh as “criminals.”

During the ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’ show which aired on RTE Radio 1 on Tuesday, guests John Mooney, Security Correspondent with the Sunday Times and Richie Culhane, former Special Branch detective and now Fine Gael Councillor in Drogheda, discussed with the RTE presenter the alleged criminal activities of dissident republicans operating in border areas and in pockets around the Republic.

Mr Mooney claimed those engaging in criminality in south Armagh and north Louth were members of the Provisional IRA whose various activities including fuel and money laundering, VAT carousels, agricultural criminality, food fraud, petrol stretching and human trafficking were generating between £36 – £40 million annually which, he claimed, was being invested internationally in in a multinational operation with links to America, Eastern Europe and the UK.

The Sunday Times correspondent, who revealed that he has been involved in investigations into criminality in south Armagh for the last 8 months, referred to the area as “having a very odd dynamic” and said the criminal grouping who he claimed are “Provos” had significant “influence over Sinn Fein.”

Describing them as a “cultural phenomenon” he maintained that the criminal faction is consulted on in terms of policies.

“I can tell you now categorically that they have a major say in various mechanisms or machinations within Sinn Fein,” he said.

Mr Mooney went on to say that he felt there was “a cultural problem in around the border that allows this activity to flourish” compounded by the ethos amongst people in the area of non-co-operation with police. He claimed to have spoken to a south Armagh man recently, as part of his research work for the Sunday Times who had admitted, “You have to live here to understand it.”

When former Special Branch detective Richie Culhane weighed into the discussion, he referred to the unsolved murder of Garda officer Adrian Donohoe in Lordship in January 2013. Mr Culhane said there was “a veil of secrecy in south Armagh” surrounding the individuals responsible for the murder and said he had called on Sinn Fein on numerous occasions to “get the people in south Armagh to come forward with evidence.” He claimed that the murder weapon used is “more than likely in south Armagh” and said people in the area were protecting the culprits.

Later in the programme, Councillor Culhane alluded to a “culture of fear” in south Armagh and referred to the murder of Paul Quinn as a consequence of “coming up against these guys.”

“So there is a very real fear amongst people that if they go to the security forces and give information, they will be dealt with in a very, very severe way,” he said.

Mr Mooney concluded the controversial discussion by predicting that the level of criminality in the area was going to have major implications for Sinn Fein and that the government is “going to start asking Sinn Fein a lot of awkward questions about a lot of this in the next year.” Furthermore he alluded to some “interesting” Criminal Assets Bureau cases arising in upcoming months, which could have implications for Sinn Fein.

Sinn Féin’s Megan Fearon hit back at the allegations, describing them as “totally without foundation.”

“The entire community of south Armagh were portrayed as criminals and accused of everything from fraud, human trafficking, money laundering and everything else.  These serious allegations against the people of south Armagh were allowed to go totally unchecked and no attempt was made to refute them,” she said.

“Such broad-brush generalisations and negative stereotyping are completely irresponsible, particularly on live national radio.  I will be writing to RTÉ in protest at the fact that this stereotyping against an entire community was allowed to go unchecked,” Ms Fearon added.