- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CULLYHANNA, Northern Ireland | More than two years after his brutal death, the people in this rural village think they know who killed Paul Quinn.

They just can’t prove it.

The killing in October 2007 of Mr. Quinn, a 21-year-old truck driver who grew up in the militant rural county known as South Armagh, offers a stark reminder that Northern Ireland’s legacy of paramilitary violence has yet to fade more than a decade after the U.S.-brokered agreement ended the war between local Roman Catholics and Protestants loyal to British rule.

Instead, some branches of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) have morphed into criminal gangs that prey largely on fellow Catholics. Mr. Quinn is cited as the latest example.

Ireland’s police force says Mr. Quinn was lured to a remote farmhouse near Castleblaney, just over the border in Ireland, and beaten to death by a masked gang wielding metal bars. The beating was so vicious that nearly every bone in his body was broken.

A friend who was with him also was beaten but not as severely. Speaking on the condition that his name not be used because he still fears for his safety, the friend said one of Mr. Quinn’s attackers shouted, “Now you know who the bosses are here now.”

The police have followed 1,200 leads and taken 400 statements from witnesses but have not filed any charges.

The Quinn family contends Mr. Quinn was slain on the orders of local IRA commanders for fighting on one occasion with an IRA member and on another with the son of a member.

“He stood up for himself,” said the victim’s father, Stephen Quinn. “That was his downfall. He took a lot but didn’t like someone without authority telling him what to do.”

The South Armagh brigade of the IRA is officially at peace. Along with the rest of the IRA, its members surrendered their weapons as part of the peace process. Today, leaders of pro-British unionists and the IRA’s political arm, Sinn Fein, jointly govern Northern Ireland.

But Mr. Quinn’s death highlights ongoing tensions between a generation of young Catholics - born after the conflict with little loyalty to the IRA - and aging IRA foot soldiers who say they are entitled to rule Catholic neighborhoods.

“He was a child of the peace movement,” said Pat McNamee, a former IRA member and Sinn Fein counselor. “He had no reason to respect people in the IRA. They were not carrying out campaigns against the Brits. The war was over.”

The latest incident is reminiscent of the January 2005 killing of Robert McCartney, a Catholic man outside a Belfast bar, which was blamed on the IRA. When Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams visited Washington for St. Patrick’s Day weeks later, he was snubbed by President Bush and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

The White House invited the president of Ireland and relatives of Mr. McCartney for the traditional presentation of a bowl of shamrocks to show that the snub was not aimed at the Irish people.

After denying any involvement, Sinn Fein and the IRA later owned up and suspended or expelled 10 members linked to the killing.

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