Dirty war in Derry
Dirty war in Derry

The family of Ciaran Doherty said he had been under “continuous harassment” from the British secret service (MI5) in the months before he was shot last week.

Mr Doherty’s body was found on a border road on Wednesday last week, bound and stripped and shot twice in the head in a manner associated with the IRA execution of an informer.

In a brief statement on Thursday night, the breakaway ‘Real IRA’ claimed responsibility for his death.

They said Doherty “was a senior member of our organisation who was executed because he became involved with a criminal gang with links to the drugs trade. He knew the risks involved in what he was doing.”

However, Mr Doherty’s family have insisted the father-of-one was “neither an informer nor a criminal”.

“Repeated attempts were made to recruit him as an informer. He rejected all these attempts,” they said.

They have called for an inquiry into MI5’s involvement in his death.

They said in the last months of his life he was stressed, lost weight, was treated in hospital for depression and was sometimes almost unable to speak to his partner.

“In the last few months of his life, he went to the local media on more than one occasion to publicise and complain about MI5’s activities.

“He revealed to the media that MI5 had sent him cards with a mobile phone number, asking him to ring and supply information on local Republicans.

“British intelligence tried to take advantage of him as a father by sending a gift voucher for a toy shop with one of the cards. This happened just before last Christmas. He sent the voucher to Altnagelvin Hospital, to be used for sick children.”

Local newspaper Derry Journal confirmed it had been contacted several times by Mr Doherty regarding Mi5 harassment and had attempted to contact a handler named ‘Justin’. When it attempted to call the number it went to an answerphone message left by a man with an English accent.

“Kieran was constantly followed,” his family said.

“He believed that his phone calls and letters were being monitored. He wasn’t given a moment’s peace and was under 24/7 surveillance by MI5. We would like to know - where were the MI5 people who were monitoring his every movement on the night he was abducted and brutally murdered?

“On one occasion about four weeks ago, MI5 officers in a car stopped Kieran and tried to engage him in conversation. They threw a mobile phone out to him with a number and asked him to ‘phone ‘Justin’. Kieran then threw mobile phone back into car. It hit one of the officers in the face.

“The PSNI and others have been asking anybody who might have relevant information to come forward. Will they ask MI5 to produce ‘Justin’ so they can interview him and find out what he knows about Kieran’s death?

His family said they believe that MI5 may have “set up” Ciaran to get him out of the way “and perhaps put somebody else into a position to supply them with information”. They compared Ciaran’s death with the modus operandi of the notorious killer double-agent ‘Stakeknife’ in Belfast.

The family also referred to the case of Dennis Donaldson “a very high-ranking member of Sinn Fein who turned out to be a British agent and who was later shot dead in Donegal, also shows how devious MI5 can be and the terrible fate of people who become their targets.

“This could be what happened to Kieran. This is why we want a full inquiry into whether MI5 was involved. We ask everyone who has supported the family and expressed their disgust at the manner of Kieran’s death to support the demand for an inquiry.”

At his funeral in St Columba’s church in Long Tower today, Mr Doherty’s coffin was draped with a tricolour, which was removed as it was brought into the church, in accordance with the rules of the Catholic church in the diocese of Derry relating to IRA funerals.

Fr Roland Colhoun told the mourners that the victim’s family “asks that there be no retaliation so that no other family will have to suffer this trauma”.

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