Family of murdered republican calls for removal of Minister's assistant

 

THE FAMILY of a Cork republican murdered more than 35 years ago has called on the Taoiseach to seek the removal of a Minister of State’s personal assistant who was acquitted of the killing in the 1970s.

The family of Larry White are angered that Labour TD Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State at the Departments of Justice and Health, has appointed her husband Bernard as her personal assistant. Mr Lynch, who was then a member of Official Sinn Féin, was acquitted on appeal after being convicted, along with three other men, of the murder of Mr White in the mid-1970s.

Mr White’s sister Mary yesterday issued a statement calling on the Taoiseach to “act in the interest of common decency” by ensuring Mr Lynch was removed from his post. “We urge the Taoiseach to act immediately to demand the resignation of Mr Lynch from his role as personal assistant to his wife,” Ms White said. “Not to do so is to surrender the moral legitimacy of the Government.” She also called for Ms Lynch’s resignation.

The Lynches declined to comment on the matter yesterday. Neither the Taoiseach nor Labour leader Eamon Gilmore were available for comment.

In November 1976, the Court of Criminal Appeal set aside the conviction of Mr Lynch and another man for the murder of Mr White. Two other convictions were upheld. Mr White had been a member of the republican splinter group Saor Éire, which had fallen out with Official Sinn Féin. The 25-year-old was walking from the pub to his home in Cork on June 10th, 1975, when he was killed in a machine-gun attack.

Gardaí arrested and charged four men: Mr Lynch and David O’Donnell (then 21), of Rosewood Estate, Ballincollig, Co Cork and Leeson Street, Belfast; Cornelius Finbar Doyle (25), Nun’s Walk, Co Cork; and Bartholomew Madden (34), Owenacurra Court, Togher, Co Cork. Mr Lynch was at the time a leading member of Cork (Official) Sinn Féin, according to The Lost Revolution, a history of the party by Scott Millar and Brian Hanley published in 2009.

The trial, which lasted 32 days, was one of the longest seen in the Special Criminal Court. The four men were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. There were allegations of Garda brutality and of confessions being given under duress.

In setting aside Mr Lynch’s conviction, chief justice Tom O’Higgins said the Court of Criminal Appeal was satisfied there were grounds for suspecting Mr Lynch was aware of the intention to use a stolen white Cortina car for the purpose of some crime, possibly a serious crime of violence. There was, however, no admissible evidence against him of any activity in the preparation or commission of a crime of violence, or the murder of Larry White.

Proof of knowledge that such a crime was about to be committed, even if it had been well established against him, would, in the absence of proof of some active participation, not support the conviction of murder, according to the chief justice. The conviction was set aside.

Mr Lynch’s past has been raised before during his wife’s political career. In 1994, anonymous leaflets were distributed in Cork North Central during a byelection campaign won by Ms Lynch as a Democratic Left candidate.