I have no idea whether Colin Duffy, the dissident Republican from Lurgan, County Armagh is responsible for the murder of two British soldiers in 2009. Nor do I know if he is responsible for the murder of an Ulster Defence Regiment soldier in 1995………for which he was acquitted on appeal…….. or the murder of two RUC officers in 1997 for which he was charged but the case never reached Court.
Only a handful of people actually know the answer to these questions, including of course Colin Duffy.
What I do know is that …on Friday…..Mr Duffy was found not guilty in a Diplock Court……ie one where the case was heard by a single judge. A Jury does not hear terrorist related cases, due to justifiable fears about “intimidation” or “favouritism”. Another man, Brian Shivers was covicted of the murder of the two soldiers.
The received wisdom borne out by several cases is that Diplock Courts usually find against the defendant. And in this case, it is clear that the defendant Duffy was given the benefit of doubt which perhaps did not extend to Shivers.
The key evidence was DNA samples taken from the burned out car which had been used in the gun attack at Massarene Barracks in March 2009. Shivers DNA was found on a box of matches, which the jusde deemed proved that Shivers was present at the scene when the car was burned…..and was therefore involved in the murders. Duffy’s DNA was found inside a latex glove and on the seat belts of the car but the judge ruled that this only proved that Duffy had been in the car at one point, not necessarily during or after the murders.
Shivers was sentenced to Life Imprisonment (he has a terminal illness anyway) and Duffy left court a free man.
At a Press Conference yesterday, Colin Duffy claims that he is the victim of persecution by an unreformed police. And that he was “framed” and the DNA evidence “planted” in the car.
To anyone who has followed Norn Iron closely, this is of course possible. It has certainly happened before. Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism are extremely unpleasant and it is not unknown in London, New York or Paris for the police to take short cuts with evidence…..to “assist” the judical process if they “know” they have the right man in custody.
Yet, it seems that Duffy was given the benefit of the doubt. Which of course he should be given……..unless of course, it is an unreasonable doubt. And seasoned watchers of the judicial process have commented that this decision was on the edge of reason.
Of course Colin Duffy was given a heroes welcome in the dissident republican community but I thought it was surprisingly muted. While the mainstream Republican Movement (ie Sinn Féin) is bitterly opposed to dissidents who broke with the main IRA after the 1998 Agreement, there is understandably an ambiguous attitude to Colin Duffy with the rank and file. He is after all a former comrade.
But I am curious about the muted reaction to Duffy’s release. Of course the killing of the two soldiers who were picking up a pizza delivery outside their barracks was wanton murder. Mainstream Republicanism has distanced itself from this kind of action. “Traitors to the People of Ireland” as Martin McGuinness put it. But for all his posturing in custody awaiting trial……..Duffy staged hunger strikes, a no-wash “dirty” protest…..Duffy did not seem the type to be a martyr. His defence was essentially that “it wasnt me…….it was other (named) people”……….is a definite NO-NO in Republican thought.
Likewise co-defendant Shivers sought to defend the DNA discovery (on a box of matches) by pointing he out that he often smoked cigarettes with two (named) people and that “they were always taking my matches”.
Shivers is in jail, where he will likely die because of the diagnosed terminal illness. And Duffy……?