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DUP reveals new IRA chief

MP Robinson names latest Provo leader DUP deputy leader. Peter Robinson has used the legal cover of Parliament to name a man as the newest member of the IRA's Army Council. Mr Robinson said Sean Gerard Hughes was a "ruthless killer and thug" linked to a series of deadly attacks in the South Armagh area and in England.

He argued that his recent elevation to the top rank of the IRA showed the organisation is "not shaping up for peace". Security sources in Northern Ireland have privately agreed with Mr Robinson's report of a reshuffle in the seven member IRA Army Council. During a House of Commons debate last night, Mr Robinson said: "In the past few months, there have been personnel changes at the top level of the Provisional IRA. "There has been a significant change in the army council: the most ruthless killer and thug in the ranks of the Provisional IRA - Sean Gerard Hughes, who has been linked to many murders on this side of the water and in Northern Ireland - has been brought on to it. "He has been linked to the south quay bombing in Canary Wharf, which brought the previous IRA ceasefire to an end in 1996 and in which two citizens were killed. He was also responsible for the murder of 12 soldiers at Warrenpoint, the mortar bomb in Newry and the killing of Justice Gibson and his wife. "Does it sound like the IRA is putting a dove on its army council? If a dove was anywhere near Sean Gerard Hughes, he would kill it, but not until he had tortured it - that is what he has done to many of the victims of his organisation, and he was directly linked to those murders.

"It is clear that the IRA is not shaping up for peace but is putting one of its most ruthless terrorists on to its army council, which is not consistent with the picture that the Government are attempting to paint of the intentions of the Provisional IRA and its political representatives in Sinn Fein." Mr Robinson has previously used parliamentary privilege to identify senior members of the IRA. Mr Robinson was speaking in support of a DUP motion in the Commons opposing Government proposals to put former prisoners on local policing boards if IRA activity winds up. The motion was defeated by 298 votes to six, a majority of 292.Belfast Telegraph 3rd December 2002


Sunday Mirror, Jul 22, 2001 by JOHN CASSIDY

A CONVICTED benefit cheat, identified in a controversial best- selling book as the infamous border terrorist The Surgeon, is under investigation over an alleged sheep subsidy fraud. The Sunday Mirror has learned that Department of Agriculture officials are probing allegations that Sean Hughes had been claiming subsidies for more sheep than he may have had. Following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth on a farm at Meigh in south Armagh, the Department decided to widen the cull of sheep to prevent any further spread.

It is understood Hughes, who runs the family farm complex in Jonesborough, had brought just over 40 sheep to the slaughter centre in nearby Newry, where they were shot by marksmen last month. However, it is understood the Department has documentation which is claimed to show that Hughes and other farmers may have been claiming European subsidies for excess numbers of sheep. Hughes is just one of a number of farmers along the south Armagh border under investigation for suspected fraud.

The inquiry is being carried out by the Department's Grants Subsidy and Inspection Division (GSID). This week the Department revealed a widespread fraud among farmers and Minister Brid Rodgers warned of harsh penalties.

She accused farmers of a "betrayal in trust" as she revealed massive discrepancies between numbers submitted for an annual EU premium scheme and actual flock sizes. Most of the false claims centred in the south Armagh area. Of the 93 farmers who claimed sheep annual premiums, 58 had fewer than required to meet their quota, and 16 of these had no sheep at all. The total shortfall in the area amounted to 4,743 sheep.

The fraud was detected in cull areas during the foot-and-mouth crisis, but may be more widespread. The figures relate to subsidy claims in the three areas where animal culls occurred: south Armagh; Ardboe, Country Tyrone and Cushendall, County Antrim. With pounds 15 paid out on every sheep claimed for, the south Armagh shortfall would have cost the system around pounds 45,000.

Restrictions on livestock movement during the crisis prevented some farmers from "borrowing" sheep from elsewhere to make up numbers before a Department inspection to check on sheep numbers claimed for in Sheep Annual Premium applications. Other fraud is also being investigated by Agriculture Department officials. At first, agriculture vets estimated that around 2,000 sheep needed to be culled during the foot- and-mouth crisis.

However, the final total number of sheep slaughtered was around 9,000, prompting concerns among Department of Agriculture officials that sheep were being taken by farmers from other parts of Armagh and the republic to be slaughtered in a bid to obtain more compensation. Brid Rodgers has warned that huge fines and even custodial sentences could await those convicted of farming fraud.

In the meantime the Department must re-think its payment schemes and sheep tagging is now under consideration.

A Department spokesman said: "Tagging would be a massive and very difficult undertaking because of the millions of sheep involved. "It would take years to complete such a scheme but it is now under serious consideration and looks like the only way forward."

In March, father-of-two Hughes was convicted at Belfast Crown Court after pleading guilty to two counts of fraudulently claiming income support.

Hughes, from Forest Park, Drumintee, was fined a total of pounds 1,500. But the case against him almost never got to trial after he fought in the courts to prevent the fraud prosecution against him going ahead, on the grounds that he couldn't get a fair trial. Hughes claimed that the book Bandit Country, by Toby Harnden, had identified him as a terrorist behind more than 70 murders.

His legal team said that as a result of the book, he could not receive a fair trial in Northern Ireland. The lawyers based their claim on the grounds that Bandit Country: The IRA and South Armagh prejudiced any chance Hughes may have had of receiving a fair trial.

Hughes was once charged with membership of the IRA and conspiring with one-time supergrass Eamon Collins to murder members of the security forces at Newry and elsewhere between August 1984 and February 1985. He was charged on Collins' evidence but was later cleared after the supergrass withdrew his statements. Earlier this year, Hughes was returned for trial on three counts of false accounting and eight counts of obtaining by deception between March 1990 and March 1996.

His defence team lodged an application with Judge Corinne Philpott under the European Human Rights Act. However, in February, Judge Philpott ruled on the defence application, saying: "In the opinion of this court the accused failed to show, on the balance of probabilities, that because of the prejudicial material in the book Bandit Country he would not or may not receive a fair trial."

The trial was eventually moved from Craigavon to Belfast sitting in Antrim Crown court where Hughes pleaded guilty.


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