herald

Sunday 25 September 2016

'If you walk up to a car and shoot indiscriminately, that is murder'

Ann McCabe with Paul Williams
Ann McCabe with Paul Williams

The widow of slain garda Jerry McCabe has insisted her husband was murdered in an attack sanctioned by people who Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams represents.

Twenty years after Det Gda McCabe was gunned down in Co Limerick, Ann McCabe has insisted his killing was a cold and calculated murder because he and his colleague were fired at "indiscriminately".

She has criticised the Sinn Fein leader and said she never accepted her husband's killing was an accident.

"I didn't accept it from day one," she said. "If you walk up to a car and start shooting indiscriminately into a car, you stop and then you start again? Murder is what I would call it and I would still call it murder.

"I haven't changed, really, in the last 20 years. I've learned to live with it, but I haven't changed and I don't think I ever will change. The pain is still there."

Grief

The grief is something that mother-of-five Ann has always struggled with, but it is something she is determined to address.

She knows she is not the only woman widowed at the hands of garda-killers and understands the pain families of deceased gardai go through, such as in the cases of Tony Golden and Adrian Donohoe.

Gda Golden was shot by a dissident republican last year while helping a victim of domestic violence. The killer then shot himself.

"Tony Golden's was a different murder, but Adrian Donohoe's killers are still walking around," said Ann.

Gda Donohoe was killed during the robbery of a Credit Union in Co Louth in 2013.

His widow, Caroline, recently retired from the force to care for their two young children.

"There are people around there who know who they are, and until they are brought before the courts Caroline Donohoe will never have peace. This is going on and on for her," said Ann.

"She has to try and get on with her life. I met her recently in Dublin and she is a lovely young lady with young kids."

The two youngest McCabe children were in their rooms preparing for the third day of their Junior and Leaving Cert exams when they heard their mother's screams downstairs 20 years ago today.

By the time they reached the bottom step, she was on the floor, inconsolable.

Det Gda McCabe died in a hail of bullets from AK47s brandished by two men in balaclavas. They fired 15 rounds at his car near Adare. Three hit him.

Ann said she has never forgiven his killers, and insisted his death was no accident.

The 1996 IRA ceasefire had broken down four months earlier, and its Army Council initially denied any involvement in the attack.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams later confirmed the killing was not authorised by the Army Council, but by a lower level authority within the IRA.

"He knew from day one who they were and he knew what operation they were on," Ann.

"It was sanctioned by the people he represents - the IRA, his comrades.

"He said they weren't involved, that it was somebody making mischief.

"He rephrased that recently when there was another murder. He said 'a bit of mischief-making'. Somebody making mischief to Jerry.

"Sinn Fein knew who they were playing ducks and drakes with."

Pearse McAuley, from Strabane, Co Tyrone, and Jeremiah Sheehy, Michael O'Neill and Kevin Walsh, from Limerick, were convicted by the non-jury Special Criminal Court of manslaughter.

All four had originally been charged with Det Gda McCabe's murder, but the State was forced to accept the manslaughter plea when key witnesses refused to co-operate after IRA intimidation.

"I reckon they were spoken to before they got into the box and that is why. There was widespread intimidation of witnesses," said Ann.

"That is what really got me angry, and that was the start of my campaign."

McAuley had previously escaped from Brixton Prison in London while awaiting prosecution over an IRA terror campaign in England. He had also jumped bail two months before the shooting.

Gardai believe it was Walsh who fired the fatal shots.

"It was plain murder. It wasn't manslaughter, so then when the sentencing came out we were shocked at that, but we had to accept it," said Ann.

"Behind the scenes I got myself very active in keeping them inside in jail because I reckon there was a deal done between our Government and the IRA.

Confronted

"They wanted to make them part of the Peace Process because I had confrontations with Mr Adams on a few occasions and he literally told me they were part of it. The deal was done with the Government at the time."

Det Garda McCabe and his colleague, Ben O'Sullivan, were escorting a cash-in-transit van at 6.50am on June 7, 1996, near the village of Adare when their car was hit by a 4x4.

Of the 15 rounds fired, one hit the officers' car and 11 struck Det Gda O'Sullivan, who survived.

A family friend rang Ann to ask if she had heard of an accident involving gardai.

Ann tried to contact Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick but could not get through.

"At that stage there was a knock at the door and I think I shouted, 'Take your time', because the bell was ringing a bit," she said.

"I didn't know who he was at the time, John Kerin [Detective Inspector in Henry Street], because I hadn't met him before.

"I just remember his face. I didn't see the garda at the gate. He asked me my name and I said, 'Yeah, Ann McCabe'.

"The look on his face and the colour of his face will always be in my mind. He told us that Jerry was dead.

"I just kept shouting that Jerry couldn't be dead. 'Please tell me it's not Jerry'."

Ann then received a call from her son, John, who was a garda in Monaghan.

"He heard it on the radio and called Roxboro and asked, 'Is it my Dad? "They said 'yes'."

In 2006, with her husband's 10th anniversary nearing, Ann confronted the Sinn Fein leader at a fundraiser in New York.

"Mr Adams came on the stage and Gerry [Gregg, who was making a film about Det Gda McCabe's death] had told me that the minute questions from the floor started I was to stand up.

"I said, 'My name is Ann McCabe and my husband was murdered by the IRA, who you represent, in Adare. One question: can you condemn his killing; and there are two people on the run - can you tell us where they are?'

"He said lots of people lost loved ones, but I said, 'You said Jerry was part of the conflict. He wasn't. We had no conflict in the South. The conflict was in the North."

Unhappy with Mr Adams' reply, she walked out.

"I was determined to get answers. I just knew I wouldn't get them because I think he lies. He lies through his teeth," said Ann.

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