There have been warnings that the 26 County government is once again operating a supergrass system against political activists after an alleged paid informer played a part in the conviction of two men in Dublin this week.
Edward McGrath and Sharif Kelly were jailed by the non-jury Special Criminal Court on the basis of the testimony of David Cullen, who was originally arrested and charged alongside the two men, before turning state witness.
It was the second trial of McGrath and Kelly for the death of alleged informer Peter Butterly after their first trial collapsed in January 2015.
In a statement, the Saoradh political party said Cullen’s testimony had been fabricated for the purpose of securing convictions. They said Cullen entered the republican E3 landing of Portlaoise Gaol four years ago, also charged in connection with the Butterly killing, but in 2014 instructed his lawyer to contact the gardai and ask for the murder charge to be dropped in return for statements.
“This was the beginning of a process of paid perjury,” they said. “Two days later Cullen was taken away under the protection of armed guards... Cullen’s relationship with special branch resembled a transaction, with demands made for large sums of money and monthly payments being arranged.”
They said Cullen attempted to implicate his own father and even his landlord, but eventually Special Branch had others smeared and arrested, one of whom was a republican prisoner already being held in Portlaoise jail.
A first trial collapsed after the defence discovered the prosecution had attempted to hide the fact that Cullen had admitted to gardai that he had a serious grudge against one of the accused men.
“Even the so-called Special Criminal Court couldn’t sell this biased version of events to the public,” Saoradh said. They warned progressive groups that this case, “should it pass unchallenged”, would be used in the future against protest groups, environmentalists, anti-war demonstrators and trade union activists.
“As the state has shown in the past what it first perfects on Irish Republicans it uses where and when and against whoever it chooses. It is incumbent on all activists that come into conflict with the powers that be, that they raise their voices now lest Republicans are telling them ‘we told you so’ when they become the target.”