McCabe killers released from jail
The last two men serving prison sentences for the killing of Det Garda Jerry McCabe have been released from prison this morning.
Pearse McAuley (44) and Kevin Walsh (52) walked free from Castlerea Prison in Co Roscommon shortly after 7am. They have served 10½ years for their role in the 1996 shooting in Adare, Co Limerick.
The men left Castlereagh in a prison van without making any comment.
The UK authorities today announced they are no longer seeking the extradition of Mr McAuley in connection with conspiracy to murder and explosives charges. Mr McAuley escaped from London’s Brixton prison in 1991 while awaiting trial.
Two other men suspected of involvement in the killing are still on the run in South America.
In a statement this morning, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the men's release came at the end of their sentence despite qualifying under the Belfast Agreement for earlier release.
“In a public statement some years ago the IRA members convicted in relation to Jerry McCabe’s death and the wounding of gardaí Ben O’Sullivan, expressed their deep regret and apologised for the ‘hurt and grief we have caused to their families’," he said.
"I believe that this apology was genuine and it echoes the sentiments of republicans everywhere. I deeply regret the great loss and hurt suffered by the McCabe and O'Sullivan families."
“The release of Kevin Walsh and Pearse McAuley comes at the end of their sentences, despite them being qualifying IRA prisoners under the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Adams said.
Det Garda McCabe was providing an armed escort for an SDS cash delivery van with his colleague Det Garda Ben O’Sullivan when they were ambushed by a gang linked to the Provisional IRA.
Det Garda McCabe was shot three times as he sat in his unmarked Garda car. Det Garda O’Sullivan was wounded by bullets and shrapnel, in the face, arms, chest and leg, but survived. He would later say of the attack: “They were wearing balaclavas. They carried what appeared to be Kalashnikov rifles. They had the guns pointed at us. In an instant, without any warning, they opened fire.”
Four men were later convicted, including Mr McAuley and Mr Walsh. They were both jailed for 14 years for manslaughter but had 3½ years taken off their sentence as remission. Jeremiah Sheehy was released in 2008, while Michael O’Neill, who was also convicted of manslaughter, left prison in 2007.
Det Garda McCabe’s killing had almost the same impact on the country as that of Veronica Guerin, 19 days later. His removal was the biggest Limerick had seen in 20 years.
A bid by his killers to secure early release under the Belfast Agreement was rejected by the High Court.
The men were jailed briefly at Portlaoise Prison before being moved to “The Grove” area of Castlerea, where prisoners live in houses and not cell accommodation. Reports of a relaxed regime regularly filtered into the media.
Paul Brown, of the Garda Representative Association, said he hoped the release would help the McCabe family move on from the shooting.
“I think they have got on with their lives. I think the issue is that there are two individuals on the run, but hope springs eternal that some day they will come before the courts and see justice,” Mr Brown said. “The rest of them have served the sentences imposed upon them and we just have to let them get on with their lives.”
Mr Brown, who served with Mr McCabe at Henry Street station in Limerick, paid tribute to his former colleague.
“Jerry was a very close family man first of all and he was very dedicated to his job,” he said. “Although young members in Henry Street wouldn’t have been serving at the time that this happened and wouldn’t have known Jerry, we have a bust of him in the station. Every time you see officers go past it you can see and sense a reverence. You can see that in their faces.”