IRA takes blame for Newry murder

The IRA last night admitted its members were responsible for the death of a postal worker in Newry, Co Down, earlier this month, but declared that it remained committed to the peace process.

It blamed the killing on a failure in its chain of command, saying those involved had been acting on instructions but the IRA leadership had not sanctioned the operation.

The postal worker, Frank Kerr, 53, was fatally wounded by a shot fired as he struggled with raiders in the main postal sorting office in Newry. Two men appeared in court last week charged with his murder.

The incident led to concerns that the cessation of military operations announced by the IRA at the end of August was in doubt. It provoked angry reactions across the political spectrum, with many calls for all paramilitary groups to hand in their arms.

Last night's statement will provide some assurance that the ceasefire is not at immediate risk, though the incident still represents a considerable blow to the IRA's reputation for internal discipline.

The initial republican reactions to the incident were confused, with the IRA announcing it was launching an investigation. It first issued a statement asserting the cessation of military operations still held, but it did not at first confirm or deny that it had sanctioned the robbery attempt.

Last night, having completed its investigation, it said: ``Those carrying out the robbery were `acting on instructions' but the so-called operation had not been sanctioned by the IRA leadership.'' Responsibility for the incident lay with ``an identified problem in the IRA chain of command'' which, it said, had now been rectified. It added: ``We have established that Frank Kerr was shot in the midst of an intense scuffle with one of our volunteers and we take this opportunity to offer sincere apologies to his family and friends.''

The question remains of how such a fundamental misunderstanding of IRA orders could have been made by individuals in the organisation. Since the ceasefire there have been IRA ``punishment beatings'' but no other use of arms, and Sinn Fein spokesmen have spelt out that the cessation should be taking as meaning an end to the use of weaponry. Martin McGuinness, for example, said after the robbery: ``I take the IRA at their word. I think complete means complete. That's my opinion of the IRA statement.''

The latest IRA statement now suggests that a figure in their organisation senior enough to give instructions had not grasped this point.

Suspicions are bound to linger that not everyone in the ranks is entirely happy with the cessation, but the IRA affirmation that it remains committed to the peace process, together with the now clear understanding that armed robberies are not permissible, will come as a relief to most observers.

In particular, there will be relief within the British and Irish governments, particularly since the former is due to open exploratory talks with Sinn Fein within the next few weeks. Sinn Fein has said Mr McGuinness will lead the republican team in those talks.

After the robbery, the Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, called on the IRA to issue an outright condemnation of the incident. He said then he hoped it would not affect the timetable for the talks with Sinn Fein.

Within hours of the killing of Mr Kerr the Irish government announced that it was halting its plans to allow early releases of nine republican prisoners.

Irish polls, page 2

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower