7 October 1999 Edition

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Sham human rights group bows out

FAIT: 1990-1999

After a nine-year history dogged by controversy, the British government-funded pseudo human rights group Families Against Intimidation and Terror (Fait) has finally collapsed.

The closure, said to be due to the continued ill-health of the group's director, Sam Cushnahan, may actually have more to do with the incessant internal feuding that has beset the organisation.

Throughout its nine years, the group has been rocked by constant controversy and as recently as six months ago, An Phoblacht reported on Fait's financial situation and allegations of funds being misappropriated.

Amongst other things, we reported that RUC informer Martin McGartland donated £2,000 to Fait to bail it out of the financial hole it was in.

The group was formed in 1990 by Downpatrick woman Nancy Gracey, who claimed her son was shot by the IRA, which, she alleged, was settling an old score. By 1996, her son was jailed on a charge of perverting the course of justice. He attacked a witness to an assault he was involved in and who was to give evidence against him.

By April 1996, Nancy Gracey was forced to resign from the group after she admitted using Fait funds to cover personal costs during a trip to the US.

Then last year, the group was again the centre of controversy after it emerged that there had been a falling out between Sam Cushnahan and the group's development officer, Glyn Roberts.

Cushnahan resigned as director over the row, claiming that he was not happy at the direction in which Roberts was taking the group. He indicated that some were not happy at the fact that Roberts was also a member of the Alliance Party and was using the group for political motives.

As a result of this split, Roberts and another member of staff took sick leave. Then allegations of fraud began circulating and a computer from Fait's offices was handed over to the RUC after pornography was found on it.

Out from this controversy stepped Vincent McKenna, who took over as development officer from Roberts. McKenna was probably best known to republicans for his bogus claims about the IRA. One of his most outlandish stories appeared in March this year when he claimed that the IRA carved a threat on a woman's leg during an incident in Bessbrook, South Armagh. According to McKenna, eight armed IRA men took over the woman's house to carry out this attack. However, within 24 hours of the incident, the intended target of the attack denied that the IRA was involved.

In January, Vincent McKenna was arrested by gardai in Monaghan and questioned about sex abuse charges.

By May, An Phoblacht was able to exclusively report that British agent Martin McGartland had donated £2,000 to Fait. At the same time as the donation was made, we were able to reveal that once again the British government was investigating allegations regarding misappropriated funds.

An Phoblacht also revealed that money claimed by Fait for employees' tax and insurance payments was never paid.

This fuelled allegations that McGartland's money was being used to cover up the misappropriation of money.

Vincent McKenna later claimed that he left the group because of McGartland's involvement.

It now appears that Fait is finished for good, though some of the staff, it is believed, will continue to work for the British government through the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1