The daughter of an innocent taxi driver murdered by the Provisional IRA believes some of her killers are protected from prosecution because they are agents of the state.
Licia McDonald says 20 years after the cowardly fatal shotgun attack of her father, Barney McDonald, her family remains determined to seek justice.
Although relatives of the murder victim declined to name any of the suspects for fear it could hamper prosecution, Sunday Life can reveal one is now a prominent figure in the New IRA.
Alicia said, “I think there’s a tout in camp. There are people who have information and the police are aware.
“I think Dad’s killers are protected from prosecution because at least one of them is a state agent.”
Barney was shot in April 2002 after facing senior Provos at Dungannon. He got into a fight with one after the gang taunted his son in a pub.
The 51-year-old’s killing came at a critical time in the peace process and just two weeks after the IRA announced it had decommissioned a slice of its weapons.
Sinn Fein’s role in the executive – which was to collapse six months later amid allegations of spy rings – was also under threat due to concerns over continued violence in Provo.
Because of this, IRA leaders in East Tyrone tried to blame Barney’s murder on loyalists. The Red Hand Defenders claimed responsibility for a phone call to a Belfast newsroom, but it was quickly dismissed as false.
At the time, the IRA in East Tyrone was led by veteran Republicans Brian Arthurs and his brother-in-law Frankie Quinn.
Arthurs (57) was jailed for 25 years for explosives-related offenses in 1995 but only served five years before being released under the Good Friday Agreement. He has since been found guilty of £250,000 mortgage fraud which has gone down in legal history due to him being held in court without a jury.
Quinn (61) has served long prison sentences on both sides of the border, including a 16-year sentence for possession of a 1,000 pound bomb. He now writes poetry and has criticized dissenting Republicans.
A judge last week ruled Arthur and Quinn breached coronavirus regulations by taking part in an honor guard at the funeral of former Sinn Fein councilor Francie McNally at the time of the first lockdown in April 2020.
Republican and security sources told Sunday Life the couple may have knowledge of Barney McDonald’s murder given their roles as East Tyrone IRA leaders in 2002.
However, there is no indication that either was one of two gunmen who blew the father-of-eight to death after he was lured to take a counterfeit bill from a pool hall in Donaghmore.
In the weeks leading up to Barney’s murder, a gang of Provos posing as the Real IRA called a friend’s house looking for him.
His campaigning daughter says her father knew he was going to be the victim of a revenge attack, but had no idea he would be shot.
Six months later, the family met Sinn Fein Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew to ask the politician for help.
Alicia recalls: “We met Michelle Gildernew. It took six months to get this meeting. As we were walking out, the last thing that was said to him was, ‘Would you support a public inquiry into this?’ She said: ‘I’m going to have to take legal advice on this’.
Since then, those close to Barney McDonald say they have heard nothing from politicians and little from the PSNI. Sunday Life contacted Sinn Fein for comment yesterday, but they were unable to comment due to the election.
The investigation into his horrific and needless revenge killing – conducted simply because an IRA leader suffered a bruised ego – has gone cold. To add to the family’s pain is to see the Provo who ordered the murder walking the streets of Dungannon as a free man.
Alicia adds, “His family would meet him quite often on the street and he would just smile at them. It is well known (who was responsible). Everyone knows who did it, but we have no forensic evidence.
The PSNI has confirmed that the Barney McDonald murder case is with its Legacy Investigations branch “for future review”.
Detective Superintendent Stephen Wright said: ‘We understand the pain that Mr McDonald’s family continues to go through.
“I want to reassure them that the case remains open and that any new information about the murder should be brought to the attention of the police.”
Barney’s wife, Mary, died before he was assassinated, and two of his sons died in car accidents.
Remembering him fondly, his daughter Alicia says: “He was a generous family man, a true entrepreneur who started his own taxi business 20 years before he was murdered.
“He unfortunately never got to see us (his daughters) grow up. When my father was killed, he had two daughters who were still in school – he never saw us go to university, get married and having our own family. Same goes for all the grandkids he’s ever met. It’s heartbreaking.
Calling for information about her father’s murder, Alicia added: “There were people who knew before this murder that my father was going to be killed. They were people he knew well. There are others who know this same information, so today we are asking you to do the right thing and give us the information we need to get justice for my father.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing and tell us everything you know about this heinous crime, so that justice is served for my father and our family’s grief is finally eased.”