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10 FACTS about the "charmed existence" enjoyed by Martin McGuinness. There are several reasons for suspicion falling on Martin McGuinness for he survived when those around him have been shot or jailed. Derry IRA informants coughed up more secrets, leading to more arms finds, than any other part of the IRA.

1. The first and biggest find of arms imported from Libya in the mid 1980s - 100 AK47 and five medium machineguns were found at Five Fingers Strand in north Donegal, and the information came via an RUC informant in Derry.

2. The IRA's powerful M60 machinegun, imported from the United States in the early 1980s, was recovered by the RUC in the city in 1982. The weapon had been used to kill eight soldiers and policemen in other parts of the province and was intended to wreak havoc in Derry. Instead, it was never fired and recovered in a community hall in the Bogside.

3. The Derry IRA was harder hit by the 'supergrass' phenomenon that any other IRA 'brigade'. About 80 of its members were before the courts at one point in 1982-1983, though McGuinness, as the local 'officer commanding,' was never arrested. In the aftermath of the supergrass period the IRA in Derry went into very noticeable decline. It was responsible for killing nine members of the security forces in 1982, but by the following year it was responsible for only three murders a Protestant businessman, a soldier and a policeman.

4. Elsewhere in Northern Ireland, IRA units were responsible for 47 murders, mostly off-duty police and Ulster Defence Regiment members. This trend continued throughout the 1980s with the exception of the Patsy Gillespie human bomb in 1990, in which five soldiers died. In 1987 - the year of the Enniskillen Cenotaph bomb - a total of 45 people, security forces and civilians were murdered by the IRA, but there were no killings in Derry (though two IRA men blew themselves up while making bombs).

5. The following year, the only people to die at the hands of the IRA in Derry were three Catholics killed in a booby trap bomb while trying to help a neighbour. While the IRA units in Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh and Down were engaged in a vicious, bloody onslaught against security force members, Derry was inactive and dysfunctional.

6. There are strong suspicions among police on both sides of the border that the killing of the two soldiers, Gunner Miles Amos and LanceBombardier Stephen Cummins, was an event which was 'allowed' to happen to cover the tracks of a highly placed intelligence sources inside the Derry IRA. Wellplaced sources say there was a near breakdown inrelations between the Army and police in Derry after this event, with the Army blaming the police, who they knew to have wellplaced informants in the local IRA, for failing to stop the attack. While police insisted they knew nothing of the attack, the Army remained unconvinced. A short while later, the Army set up an under-cover operation to thwart an IRA bomb attack on the city centre. The route of the bomb-run was changed and the head bomber escaped under the noses of waiting SAS members. ??????????

7. In 1979 Brian Keenan, who was running a ruthless bombing campaign in Britain and Northern Ireland, was arrested after being flagged down by McGuinness on the roadway where they had a brief conversation. When he was in jail Keenan asked that McGuinness be investigated by the IRA, but he did not pursue the matter after he was released.

8. In November 1994 a police investigation, Operation Taurus, found three witnesses to implicate McGuinness in directing terrorism. It was halted with the appearance of a letter asking prosecutors to bear in mind that McGuinness would shortly be in talks with the government about the future of Northern Ireland. His political value, underlined by his hotline to a senior MI6 officer, may be sufficient to explain why McGuinness has often seemed a protected species.

9. No members of the security forces were killed in 1991 or 1992. Then a young Constable, Michael Ferguson, was shot dead outside the Richmond Centre in January 1993, and an RIR member, Christopher Wren, was killed in May the same year.

10. In the blizzard of violence that stemmed from the north Belfast IRA's bombing of Frizzell's fish shop on the Shankill Road, the IRA in Derry remained silent. There were no IRA killings in Derry in 1994. Ironically, in the run-up to the 1994 IRA ceasefire, journalists were briefed that one of the main impediments to Gerry Adams' 'peace' plans were 'hardliners' like Martin McGuinness then holding the title of IRA chief of staff. What is clear is that the Special Branch, Army or Intelligence Services had deeply infiltrated the IRA in Derry from around the early to mid 1980s. As the IRA moved towards ceasefire in the early 1990s, Derry seemed to lead the way in running down its operations.

All over Northern Ireland people are reassessing McGuinness's career in the wake of newspaper claims by Martin Ingram, a former military intelligence officer, that the man once regarded as an IRA hawk had been controlled by MI6 for at least two decades. A retired RUC special branch officer believes McGuinness was the MI5 agent code-named "Fisherman".

Republican veterans point to the "charmed existence" enjoyed by McGuinness. He has held every senior position in the Provisional IRA since its inception, but has never been shot or injured nor served a serious prison sentence in the UK.

During the internment swoops he managed to avoid detention and travelled freely back and forth from Londonderry to his granny's house in Donegal where he was nominally "on the run". Statements by another supergrass, Robert Quigley, implicated McGuinness in organising IRA activity, but he was never charged. While McGuinness remained beyond the law, his followers were jailed and killed. Now he has a holiday home in Donegal, he and Gerry Adams are both millionaires. Interesting, isn't it!


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