Northern Ireland

Gareth O'Connor murder: Father describes IRA shed meeting

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Media captionGareth O'Connor's father called on Mr Kelly to resign

The father of murder victim Gareth O'Connor has described meeting the IRA in a shed in County Tyrone shortly after his son disappeared.

Mark O'Connor told Radio Ulster's Talkback that he had gone in a bid to find out what had happened.

Gareth O'Connor was 24 when he disappeared in May 2003.

He was travelling to Dundalk Garda Station to sign as part of his bail conditions after being charged with membership of the Real IRA.

He never arrived. In 2005, a car containing his body was dragged from Newry Canal.

Mr O'Connor said Gareth had been involved in a PIRA money scam and had tried to get his money back before he disappeared.

"He was abducted and murdered by the Provisional IRA," Mr O'Connor said.

"After he disappeared, I rang everyone I could get. I rang Gerry Adams who said he was too busy. Gerry Kelly came down to the house on two occasions. He came in and took all his notes and said he would come back.

"He came back to say that he knew nothing, he could find out nothing and said all he knew was that our son was classed as an informer so that he couldn't help anybody."

After that, Mr O'Connor met the PIRA.

"I asked for a meeting with local IRA representatives and we met in a shed in County Tyrone," he said.

"There were three people present. Two hid behind an oil tank and one asked me questions.

"They made me sit on a drum in the middle of the shed and searched me from top to bottom. They asked me about Gareth and about the money and what I knew. They firmly denied they had information, but they said if they knew they would contact me."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption His body was found in a car recovered from Newry canal in 2005

Gareth O'Connor's family have always believed he was killed by the Provisional IRA, despite assurances from top figures in the republican movement, including Mr Kelly, that he was not.

Mr O'Connor has now called for Mr Kelly to resign.

On Monday, Gareth's inquest was halted after it was revealed that Mr Kelly had delivered an On the Run letter to the person considered chief suspect in the murder who was mistakenly given the letter.

However, Mr Kelly has defended his role in delivering it.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Kelly said he did not know the identity of the murder suspect.

"Let me make it very clear that I don't know, and there is no name for a recipient so I don't know who the letter is to, or what it's about," he said.

"It is now public knowledge that my name was on most of these letters as a conduit for Sinn Féin."

Mr Kelly said that "there was never any discussion about what they might be on the run for or not on the run for", and once he passed on information to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), "the process after that belonged entirely to the NIO or police services".

Gareth O'Connor's inquest has now been postponed with the coroner telling Mr O'Connor's family that the matter would now have to be investigated further.

Mr O'Connor told Talkback: "Gerry Kelly in my opinion is speaking for the Good Friday Agreement at Stormont, but he is fighting against the Good Friday Agreement because he is going against the rules by giving the On the Run letter."

The DUP MP Ian Paisley repeated calls for the government to publish a list of the names of people who received On the Run (OTR) letters in the Commons on Tuesday.

Under the On the Runs letter scheme, more than 200 people were told they were not wanted for paramilitary crimes committed before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The scheme was made public when the trial collapsed of John Downey, who was a suspect in the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing.

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