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Dermot Finucane: Naomi Long slams IRA convict’s RPG-7 rocket launcher picture

Northern Ireland Justice Minister Naomi Long has described ex-IRA convict Dermot Finucane’s posing on Facebook with what appears to be an RPG-7 rocket launcher as “grotesque”.

n a Sunday World story we revealed how Finucane, the 60-year-old who masterminded the Maze Prison escape, has been slammed for “glorifying terrorism” in the shocking picture.

Tweeting a picture of our story, Ms Long condemned Mr Finucane’s “completely disgraceful behaviour”.

“(It is) likely to re-traumatise those whose loved ones were slaughtered by the IRA using those kinds of weapons,” she added. “Having read the article, what’s even worse than the photo is those acting like it’s all a big joke. Without empathy we are lost. Grotesque.”

We reported how Finucane joked, “Does my bum look big in this?” and liked several questionable comments where he revelled in his paramilitary notoriety, including ‘In the hands of an expert’, ‘Reeling in the years’, ‘Legend’ and ‘In your natural habitat lol’.

These were all given the thumbs-up by the former terrorist as well as the sectarian comment, ‘Ahh jasus you’ll have the Huns up in arms’.

Many members of the security forces were murdered by the IRA using the RPG rocket launcher including 30-year-old father-of-three Constable Johnston Beacom after a rocket ripped through his armoured car in Belfast in 1994.

The lethal device was used so much in one part of west Belfast that Beechmount Avenue became known as RPG Avenue.

The picture was posted at the start of last week during the Twitter storm over comments made by UUP leader Doug Beattie and one friend of Finucane’s even jokes, ‘Hope Twitter doesn’t get this one lol’ to which he replies, ‘The New Doug!’

Finucane is the uncle of Sinn Féin North Belfast MP John Finucane and Dermot was part of a family delegation that met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin in 2019 as part of their campaign for truth and justice into the murder of Dermot’s brother Pat, who was shot by loyalists in his home in 1989.

Dermot served just two years of an 18-year prison sentence for his involvement in an IRA ambush attack along with senior Provo Bobby Storey on an Army patrol in which one soldier was shot in the leg.

But he was one of the leaders in the 1983 Maze Prison escape and during the infamous breakout – which saw one prison officer collapse and die – Finucane is reported to have used a chisel to stab at least three prison guards.

Finucane regularly posts on Twitter, where he calls himself Mr Blonde, as well as Facebook but after we had approached Sinn Féin and Finucane himself through Messenger his previously public Facebook page was set to private. It’s not clear if he had seen our request for a comment.

Ulster Unionist Party Policing Board member Mike Nesbitt described the image as “unjustifiable” and “deeply offensive”.

And he questioned the timing of it in the week leading up to the 50th anniversary to Bloody Sunday.

The Strangford MLA said: “At a time when some of us are being respectful towards those remembering what Prime Minister Cameron called the unjustified and unjustifiable events of Bloody Sunday, this is a particularly inappropriate time for an unjustifiable image that will be greeted as deeply offensive and not just by victims of IRA violence.”

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An IRA volunteer aiming an RPG-7 rocket launcher

Meanwhile Gary Murray, whose sister Leanne was murdered in an IRA bomb, said the sight of a convicted IRA man standing with a rocket launcher and warhead was an “absolute disgrace”.

“It’s an absolute disgrace, especially with him standing with a rocket launcher, glorifying terrorism.

“What is that saying to victims of the Troubles? It feels like he’s laughing at them. It’s disgusting.”

Leanne Murray had just turned 13 when she died in the 1993 Shankill bomb which the IRA had planted in Frizzell’s fish shop, killing 10 people in total.

He says he had just gotten over having to see ex-IRA killer Sean Kelly, who planted that deadly bomb, giving Troubles tours round north Belfast.

“In my eyes Sean Kelly has no right at all to give people tours of the Troubles because of the murderous atrocity he caused by his own hands murdering men women and children.

“Now we have Dermot Finucane making a big joke out of a bombing device used to murder people.”

Dermot Finucane was arrested in Longford in 1987 and held for over two years while the British government tried to have him extradited back to Northern Ireland to finish his 18-year sentence and to answer fresh charges relating to the Maze breakout.

Initially on the arrest warrant was the murder of prison officer James Ferris who had been stabbed during the escape but that was dropped when it emerged the guard had died from a heart attack shortly after he’d been stabbed.

After a protracted battle with the courts, he won an appeal at the Supreme Court in Dublin against his proposed extradition.

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UUP Policing Board member Mike Nesbitt questioned the timing of Finucane’s post

The Supreme Court cited “the probable risk” that he would be assaulted in prison in the North and that his crimes were political.

In 2020 declassified papers showed then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been left furious at the decision and raised Finucane’s case with Taoiseach Charles Haughey.

Papers showed she had launched a withering attack on Ireland’s Supreme Court during a private meeting with Mr Haughey weeks after it refused to extradite Finucane and another Maze escapee convicted of the attempted murder of a UDR man.

“Your Supreme Court is really something,” she complained to Haughey during a tetchy encounter in a drawing room in 10 Downing Street in April 1990, the declassified files disclose.

Finucane is believed to be one of the recipients of a so-called “comfort letter” issued by Tony Blair’s government at the start of the century which allowed on-the-run republicans to return to Northern Ireland safe in the knowledge they were no longer being sought for prosecution.

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