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20 April 2017

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Storm over DUP MPs’ House of Commons defence of RUC execution of unarmed, handcuffed and wounded IRA Volunteer

● Protesters in Downpatrick, County Down, mark the 10th anniversary of the killing of Volunteer Colum Marks

Marks was held for 20 minutes and interrogated before he died in RUC custody

DUP MPs Ian Paisley Jnr and Jim Shannon are defiantly standing by remarks in the British Parliament that RUC police officers who summarily executed a handcuffed, wounded and unarmed IRA Volunteer should be given medals rather than face a renewed inquiry into the controversial shooting.

On 10 April 1991, 29-year-old Colum Marks, an IRA Volunteer of the South Down Brigade, was shot three times, once in the head, in an RUC shoot-to-kill operation in Downpatrick.

Marks was unarmed, handcuffed and held at the side of an empty house for around 20 minutes and interrogated before he died in RUC custody.

No gun was ever found.

In a House of Commons debate this week, Paisley said the RUC member who “dispatched” Marks was a personal friend who should be given a medal.

However crass as Paisley junior’s remarks were, it was the hysterical contribution of DUP colleague Shannon that plumbed the depths as he railed against the dead IRA Volunteer, describing him as “odious, filthy, scum” before accusing him of killing four Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers in a landmine attack in the South Down area in 1990.

Shannon said:

“The day that evil, obnoxious, psychopathic multiple killer was put in the grave was a day that Ulster was a better place.”

Colum Marks's mother, Roisín, stands at the memorial to Volunteers from South Down

● Colum Marks’ s mother, Roisín, stands at the memorial to Volunteers from South Down

The dead man’s family have rejected the findings of an inquest and a Police Ombudsman’s report. Last year, however, the family’s legal team announced that the Ombudsman was launching a fresh inquiry into the shooting based on the new eyewitness accounts.

It is an inquiry, Paisley claims, that is based on “dodgy and fragile, fake evidence”.

On the tenth anniversary of Volunteer Marks’s death, our correspondent Laura Friel wrote in An Phoblacht:

“The RUC have admitted that, immediately after the shooting, Colum Marks was conscious and able to speak. A witness saw two RUC men drag the wounded Volunteer through a gateway, out of the field and down the side of an empty house. Abrasions on the body appear to confirm this.

“Voices heard at the side of the house suggest that the seriously wounded man was interrogated before being thrown into the back of an RUC vehicle and driven to hospital. The RUC claim Colum Marks was taken to hospital within five minutes of the shooting but it was at least 30 minutes before he arrived.
“The RUC have also admitted they had detailed prior knowledge of the IRA operation and knew the identities of the IRA unit planning to carry it out.”

Reacting to DUP MPs Paisley and Shannon, Sinn Féin Newry & Armagh MP Mickey Brady said the remarks are “nothing short of disgraceful”, saying: 

“Not only do such crass and disgusting comments add to the hurt of the Marks family, they are also an insult to all those who knew Colum and hold him in high regard. 

“No one can be above or beyond the law, whether he is a friend of Ian Paisley’s or not.

“This is a further indication of the DUP’s attempts to whitewash the past and it is symptomatic of their abject failure to deal with the legacy of the conflict.”

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