Renewed condemnation of booby-trap attack as victim loses sight in one eye

April 20, 2015

Local political representatives have renewed their condemnation of those who carried out a booby-trap bomb attack in Crossmaglen in February, after it was revealed that south Armagh man Francis McCabe Junior has lost the sight in one eye after sustaining serious injuries in the incident.

Mr McCabe had been removing a poster which made reference to a mainstream republican from the area, who it is believed was the intended target of the pipe-bomb, when the bomb detonated.

The Crossmaglen man –  the son of well-known republican Frank McCabe – suffered eye, face, chest and hand injuries in the explosion.  After the attack, more than 1,000 people, including Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, attended a rally in support of Mr McCabe.

Despite the efforts of surgeons to save his injured eye, it emerged last week that he had permanently lost his sight and will be unable to return to his work as a lorry driver.

The news prompted an outpouring of sympathy from political representatives who also reiterated their condemnation of the perpetrators of the attack.

SDLP Newry and Armagh Westminster candidate Justin McNulty said the outcome for Mr McCabe was “tragic” and added that “those behind this cowardly attack must be brought to justice.”

Family friend Sinn Fein MLA Mickey Brady said it was “with sadness” that he had learned that Mr McCabe had lost the sight in his eye and said it would have “a huge impact on his life.”

Brady said he “totally and utterly” condemned those behind the attack.

“They are criminals who have absolutely nothing to offer the community in south Armagh and north Louth.”

The Newry and Armagh MLA called for those with information to come forward and called for the condemnation of “the activities of the criminal gangs that are attempting to intimidate and coerce those in south Armagh who are opposed to them”.

During an Assembly meeting last Tuesday, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he had “no hesitation whatsoever in unreservedly condemning those responsible.”

“As I have said, they are criminals and they have absolutely nothing to offer the community in south Armagh and north Louth. It is very clear to all of us how the local community has responded to this cowardly attack by taking to the streets in huge numbers in support of the McCabe family.

“These gangs have no support in the local community and they must be stopped. One way of dealing with their activities is for people in the local community, whenever criminality raises its head, to work very closely with both the police services north and south of the border.

“I extend my support and best wishes to Francis Jnr and the McCabe family and hope that he can recover from his very serious injuries.”

Mr Brady then called on the Deputy First Minister to “join with me in calling on the PSNI and an Garda Síochána to step up their activities against these criminal gangs in order to bring them to justice and ensure that we do not see a repeat of the injuries received by Mr McCabe”.

Mr McGuinness said the PSNI and the Garda Síochána had “a role and responsibility to deal with these criminal gangs.”

“Both must demonstrate that they are supporting communities who oppose criminality. Actions and delivery from both police services are key, and I call for greater cooperation between the PSNI and an Garda Síochána to take these criminals, whether in south Armagh or north Louth, off the streets.

“We all understand and know that we have a particular difficulty in this part of the North of Ireland and, indeed, on the border, in relation to a very small number of people who are part of armed groups, looking to benefit financially from their criminal activities.

“The local community in south Armagh has been at the forefront in supporting the peace process and the police services, North and South.

“In fact, the McCabe family were one of those families in the area that were very proactively involved in seeking support for the Police Service in the local community. Maybe that is one of the reasons why Francis Jnr was attacked.

“The attack on Francis McCabe Jnr is, effectively, an attack on all of us who support these institutions and the change that has happened in policing here as a result of the various agreements that have been made down the years.

“I encourage everybody in society to work very closely with the police services, North and South. Do not be afraid to give information on the activities of those groups, which are acting against the interests of the local community.”