Torney's death ends present INLA feud

 

Hugh Torney, shot dead last night, was renowned for killing "Dr Death" during a previous INLA feud, writes Jim Cusack, Security Correspondent

By JIM CUSACK

THE shooting dead of Hugh Torney in Lurgan effectively ends the latest round of INLA feuding which has left a trail of death, including that of a nine-year-old girl.

Torney was the leader of the tiny INLA "General Headquarters" faction, which has now lost all its leading members.

The "GHQ" faction followed Torney when he was ousted as leader of the INLA after he was captured with four other men by gardai with a shipment of 30 guns at Balbriggan, Co Dublin.

One of the men arrested, Dessie McCleery, from Armagh, was shot dead in a crowded Belfast city centre restaurant last month as part of the same feud. Another associate, John Fennell, was beaten to death in a Co Donegal caravan park in March.

Gino Gallagher, leader of the opposing INLA faction, was murdered in February. The Gallagher faction, as part of its retaliation, killed nine-year-old Barbara McAlorum, during a gun attack on her family's home in north Belfast.

Torney was also at the centre of the last major INLA internal feud, in 1987, when 12 people were shot dead. That feud ended when Torney was involved in shooting dead Gerard Steenson, nicknamed "Dr Death", the leader of the other faction.

Torney's own nickname, `Cueball' is understood to derive from his habit in prison, of beating other prisoners with a pool ball wrapped inside a sock.

His career in republican paramilitarism began in Ballymurphy in the early 1970s when he joined the Official IRA. He was shot and injured during a gun battle with the British army in 1972 while in his teens.

He was one of the founder members of the INLA, along with Fennell and others, and was deeply involved in all the organisation's activities.

The INLA always had a ruthless approach to its work. In 1982, Torney was responsible for a bomb attack on British soldiers in Divis Flats which killed two young boys, Kevin Valliday and Stephen Bennett. One soldier died later.

In the 1980s the INLA began to turn in on itself under the erratic and violent leadership of Dominic McGlinchey, who was shot dead in Drogheda in 1994.

Torney was involved in the killing of another Belfast INLA figure, Gerard "Sparky" Barkley, luring him to Dundalk where he was killed by McGlinchey's men, including Gino Gallagher.

At the outbreak of the 1987 INLA feud, Torney narrowly missed death when he and his associates were ambushed by Gerard "Dr Death" Steenson's faction at the Rossnaree Hotel, in Co Louth. The two men with Torney were shot dead but he escaped with only a hand wound.

He recovered sufficiently quickly to end the feud with the ambush and murder of Steenson and another man in Ballymurphy two months later.

Immediately after that feud Torney assumed control of the INLA, while his opponents left to form a new group, the Irish People's Liberation Organisation (IPLO), which eventually destroyed itself in another feud in 1992.

Under Torney's control, the INLA reverted to attacks on loyalists and Protestant civilian targets. He ordered the killing of three UVF members in Belfast in June, 1994. This led to the reprisal attack on the public house at Loughinisland, Co Down, in which six Catholic civilians were killed.

Torney's control of the INLA slipped when he was arrested in Balbriggan last year. He spent some months on remand before being freed on bail. While he was in prison, his former lieutenant, Gino Gallagher, declared himself head of the INLA and a feud became inevitable.

It broke out when Gallagher was shot dead while waiting to sign on for unemployment benefit at the Falls Road lab our exchange at the beginning of February. It may have ended yesterday with, as one source close to the organisation put it, "the Cueball being pocketed".