Sinn Féin Northern Chair Bobby Storey has spoken of his anger at the nature and timing of his arrest.
At a weekend press conference at the Roddy McCorley Society on the Glen Road in West Belfast, he said that when a detective was asked by Mr Storey’s solicitor why his client had been arrested, the police officer replied that “a particular person” believed that he had been involved in the murder. Asked how he had received this information, the detective replied: “I’m not sure I think I heard that on TV or on the news.”
Mr Storey said on the day of his release that “not a shred” of evidence had been put to him during his 30 hours in custody at Antrim Serious Crime Suite. The latest revelations about his arrest and questioning have deepened nationalist and republican suspicions about events of the past five days.
Mr Storey said: “There are grave concerns not only about the nature of my arrest but about the timing of the arrest and a number of the circumstances around it. We now know that senior politicians were briefing the media before my arrest that I was to be arrested on the morning of the talks.
“Republicans are very cynical about all of this. We intend to go to the Chief Constable as a party and raise those concerns and to drive home the republican anger and put to him the questions that are on everyone’s lips.
“In relation to the questioning, the police said to me that a particular person believed that I was involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan. My solicitor asked him, ‘Is that based on a statement? Is that based on someone coming to the police?’ And the PSNI detective looked at his other detective partner and said, ‘I’m not sure. I think I heard that on TV or on the news.’ That is the taped record of my interview. That is the type of charade and pathetic experience that I had to endure in this absolutely unjust arrest.”
Mr Storey’s arrest accelerated the crisis sparked by the murder of Kevin McGuigan in the Short Strand on August 12 and the Chief Constable’s subsequent assessment that members of the Provisional IRA had been involved. It led directly to the DUP withdrawing all of its ministers except one from the Stormont Executive. Mr Storey said it was important for republicans to avoid “kneejerk or emotional reactions”.
“I’ve spent 20 years myself with republican strategy, developing with others the way forward, the republican peace strategy feeding into the peace process,” he said. “Many republicans have invested a lot in this and we need to be steady as we go. This isn’t the time for kneejerk or emotional reactions. I have very personal feelings – affront, enragement, anger – within me about all of this, but I’m the six county chair of Sinn Féin. I have organisational and leadership responsibilities and my whole focus will be to make sure that any elements – unionist in-fighting, the criminals who are out there, these dissident groups who are unrepresentative, anti-drugs groups who are thieves, extortionists and criminals – we can’t let these elements get in the road of the Sinn Féin programme. Let’s not be shocked at challenges as they come along. Let’s recognise them for what they are and keep going.”