Catholic churchman, Brian McCreesh, brother of IRA member Raymond McCreesh who later died on hugerstrike in somewhat disputed circumstances (Raymond is alleged in historical papers to have wanted nourishment in his final days, but was persuaded by his family to continue fasting to death) claimed that his brother was ‘not a criminal’.
Raymond had certainly proven that he had an exceptional will to live.
Cornered in a house by British soldiers after a failed attack on Beleek British army base in June 1976, Raymond did what no other IRA volunteer had ever done – he called the RUC in Bessbrook and asked them to come and arrest him because he didn’t trust the soldiers not to shoot him.
Having received Raymond’s vote of full confidence in its professionalism, the RUC did what Raymond asked and went along and arrested him and a number of his comrades.
Unlike all of the IRA’s captured/abducted prisoners, Raymond was not tortured and then executed on a border road.
Raymond made a large number of verbal admissions to the RUC and gave many details about his activities, but not about all of them.
He was later sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempted murder, possession of a Garand rifle and armour-piercing ammunition and IRA membership.
Raymond’s actions in calling the RUC to come and arrest him, allied to his ‘squealing’ quite a bit in police custody, would in most circumstances have resulted in his not being fully trusted thereafter by the IRA. He might have been required to take up residence in Cage 8 if he had gained ‘special category’ status – the Cage for those who – among other things – had been deemed to have ‘squealed’ in interrogation.
How he overcame these matters in prison I don’t know. Other well-known IRA members who said less in interrogation were certainly viewed with suspicion by the IRA in perpetuity.
Let me – as a former IRA volunteer myself – look at Raymond’s case without the benign gaze of a family member.
Raymond McCreesh and the IRA
Raymond took an oath of allegiance to a paramilitary organisation which had formed itself (admittedly with a little bit of help, cash and weapons from colluding Irish government sources) without the benefit of a lawfully elected government or any form of democratic or lawful authority.
The paramilitary organisation to which he made oath (read The Green Book) had murder and mayhem as its main aims and required its members to tell a multitude of lies from day one to both family and friends.
The IRA’s oath of allegiance was intended to supersede all other earthly moral or ethical claims, in particular any claim made by a church, by the Gospels and even to the detriment of marriages and family bonds.
This – anyone of a Christian belief would agree – is very similar to the immorality of the Mafia and its own oath and requirement to ‘omerta’ – or silence and lies.
[And Brian, don’t underestimate the IRA’s legacy of lies – click here for an article detailing with just some of the IRA’s bigger lies.]
For a catholic priest, this immoral oath to obey all orders to murder and bomb, abduct, torture and disappear citizens – is opposed to every single thing that is catholic and Christian.
So I will take it for granted that Brian McCreesh agrees with me that the oath of allegiance to a Mafia-like organisation is both immoral and sinful to an extreme degree and that the IRA’s activities of abduction, torture, murder and disappearances and mass-casualty bombings are equally immoral and sinful.
So now we come to Brian McCreesh’s claim that his brother, Raymond, was ‘not a criminal’.
In any jurisdiction known to me – in the Republic of Ireland, in the Vatican State, in America and even in Eastern Europe – membership of a paramilitary organisation allied to possession of a rifle and armour piercing ammunition allied to charge(s) of attempted murder – especially where the defendant himself called the police and offered a multitude of admissions – are ‘criminal’ offences.
I cannot bring to mind a location where these offences are ‘not criminal’.
Captured for similar offences in America, Raymond might well have faced the death penalty upon conviction.
Raymond McCreesh and Kingsmill
I joined the IRA when I was fifteen years of age. I was still a member when I was arrested five years later when I was twenty years of age. I spent over fourteen years in prison, many of those years among IRA prisoners.
Everyone who was an IRA member knows that IRA activists had ‘personal weapons’ of choice. Brigade and Battalion staff had their weapons of choice.
Martin McGuinness told me that he and other IRA leaders (including Gerry Adams) carried their personal defence weapons into a secret meeting with William Whitelaw in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, back in 1972 (a claim I faithfully recorded in a book as far back as 1993).
IRA volunteers had their personal weapons of expertise and of choice – weapons with which they were familiar and in which they were trained.
No IRA volunteers were sent out on operations with weapons with which they were unfamiliar and which might therefore cost them their lives. No way.
Familiarity and confidence with a particular weapon also helped to prevent accidental shootings and injuries or deaths among IRA volunteers.
Familiarity also helped with ‘sighting in’ a rifle, which otherwise would be fired inaccurately.
Raymond McCreesh was captured with a rifle used in the Kingsmill sectarian slaughter of ten Protestant civilians.
Brian McCreesh denies that his brother was involved in the Kingsmill atrocity, but argues that his other IRA activities – possibly murdering Protestant neighbours who were either in the UDR, RUC, RUC Reserve or even mistakenly thought to be in these organisations and were still murdered – were ‘not criminal’.
Brian – how would you know for sure, since the IRA requires its volunteers to lie constantly?
This begs the obvious question: if Raymond WAS involved in the mass murder atrocity of Kingsmill, would that have made him a criminal in your eyes, or would you stick to your guns and still argue that he was NOT a criminal?
And if you could accept that his involvement in the Kingsmill slaughter WAS criminal, how can you truly believe that murders of other Protestant neighbours were NOT criminal?
In order to maintain this belief that the IRA was not committing criminal murders, you must believe that it had the right to decide who lived or died – that the IRA had legitimate power over life and death, abductions, tortures, disappearances and extra-judicial executions and mass-casualty bombings.
From where did the IRA derive this legitimacy to murder and torture and disappear corpses, to engage in mass-casualty bombings?
How could your brother – who took an oath of allegiance to all of these IRA actions and who approved of these thousands of atrocious Human Rights’ violations – how could Raymond NOT have been a Human Rights’ violator and sinner and criminal?
In what warped mindset do you, as a Christian, approve of the IRA’s mass murder campaign to the degree that you term it ‘not criminal’?
If the IRA was NOT criminal, why did it accept the order to end its ‘armed struggle’, to mostly disband itself and to decommission its entire arsenal and accept the instruction to recognise Stormont and Dáil Éireann?
The fact is, Brian, that you are not really a catholic priest at all – not from the moment that you approved of the IRA’s and Raymond’s murderous activities and sought to legitimize them.
By your decision to endeavour to legitimize the IRA’s mass murder campaign and atrocious Human Rights’ record, you effectively resigned your priesthood, but remained in garb and in activities that are – in retrospect – without validity.
The IRA in Denial
Isn’t it amazing to be still alive in a time when the IRA is in total denial of its atrocious Human Rights’ record?
When prominent IRA leaders want to deny any responsibility for membership or leadership of the IRA’s armed struggle?
When entire brigades and battalions of IRA members are denying ever carrying out any IRA actions?
When no IRA volunteer will stand forth and admit to any job whatsoever?
When no grieving family wants an IRA member who actually DID anything in the IRA???
Totally shamed by IRA crimes?
Totally embarrassed by IRA crimes?
Belatedly afflicted by conscience over IRA crimes?
Suppressing belief in the criminality of the IRA’s activities?
An implicit admission of the absolutely terroristic nature of a campaign nobody wants to take responsibility for any more?
The fact is, Brian, that had Raymond been allowed to live and grow and change, he might be authoring this very article subsequent to his repentance of the IRA’s campaign of mass Human Rights’ atrocities.
And if Raymond had so repented, Brian, as I have, where would that leave you and your ‘not criminal’ assertion?
For a discussion of whether the IRA’s prisoners were POWs or terrorists, click here.
For a discussion of Catholic priests and the IRA, click here.
For a discussion of IRA commemorations, click here.