Political motive seen behind raids, seizures
Political motive seen behind raids, seizures

Sinn Fein has criticised police raids in south Armagh in which the family assets of a friend of the MP for Newry and Armagh, Conor Murphy, were seized.

Mr Murphy hit out at the targeting of local republican Sean Hughes and his family by the London based SOCA organisation.

Mr Hughes’s home and that of a number of relatives were raided by the PSNI.

The High Court in Belfast granted an interim order freezing assets held by Mr and his wife, Annette, with SOCA taking control of properties that Mr Hughes and his wife own. It was alleged that the assets, including a number of family properties, were the result of laundering the proceeds of mortgage fraud, tax evasion and benefit fraud.

“Sean Hughes is a sound Republican,” Mr Murphy said.

“He has spent his entire adult life engaged in the struggle for Irish unity and Independence.

“He has championed the peace process and the campaign to end political policing. There have been numerous attempts over the years to smear Sean’s character.

“The raids today on Sean’s home and those of a number of his relatives have caused deep anger in South Armagh. There is no justification for the deliberate targeting of Sean and his family today.

“Sean has been charged with nothing. Neither have any members of his family. It is unacceptable.

“Undoubtedly many people will see a more sinister hand behind the SOCA operation this morning. SOCA is based in and run from London. As in the past when political unionism gets itself into difficulties, as the DUP have in recent weeks, the faceless opponents of Irish Republicanism who are still in prominent positions will seek to come to their rescue with operations like we have witnessed today.”

Unionists subsequently called on the policing board to expel Mrs Murphy from a district policing body.

Mrs Hughes, a member of Sinn Fein, is an independent member of Newry and Mourne District Policing Partnership (DPP) that monitors the work of the PSNI in the area.

She also leads Newry’s Community Restorative Justice body that deals with anti-social behaviour and which gained official recognition last month.

“Should she not withdraw willingly, the Northern Ireland Policing Board should terminate her membership of the DPP immediately in order to maintain public confidence and protect the integrity of district policing partnerships,” he said.

Sinn Fein councillor and DPP member Packie McDonald, defended Mrs Hughes saying she “had bravely stepped forward from within the republican community to engage in the new policing structures”.

Unionists also criticised the comments of Mr Murphy, which the DUP described as an attempt to interfere with the work of the police.

Mr Murphy defended his comments saying it was his duty as an MP for the area to represent constituents and “highlight bad practice”.

“The highly provocative and political raids carried out in south Armagh yesterday were at the behest of SOCA not the PSNI,” he said.

“Sinn Fein wants no role in operational policing matters.”

* A 59-year-old man south Armagh was charged this week with the IRA execution of an undercover in the North more than 30 years ago.

Kevin Crilly was accused of invovement in the death of British army intelligence officer Robert Nairac, who disappeared after attempting to spy on the IRA at a pub in 1977.

He was ordered to be held in custody after Crown prosecutors objected to bail.

Mr Crilly, who lived in the US for almost 30 years before returning to Ireland in recent years, has previously faced minor charges relating to Nairac’s disappearance.

His defence team objected that the prosecution had given them no prior warning that the murder charge would be put to their client or that they would be objecting to his bail.

Capt Nairac disappeared from outside the Three Steps Inn at Drumintee outside Jonesborough, County Armagh, after an attempt to gather information about republican activity in the area. His remains have never been found.

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