Seamus Grew
Killed by RUC during shoot-to-kill operation on 12 December 1982

Seamus Grew, aged 31, a leader of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, was killed, along with Roddy Carroll, when the car they were driving was fired on by the RUC at Armagh. Both men, who were unarmed, were killed instantly. The RUC had been led to believe by an informer that their real target, Dominic McGlinchey, the INLA's chief of staff, would be in the car as they crossed the border from an INLA meeting in Monaghan in the 26 counties.

Grew had been in shot in the throat and captured in 1979 and sentenced to four years for INLA activities. He was released after serving two years and survived an assassination attempt by Protestant gunmen two months before he was killed.

At the trial, the police officer who killed the two men, Constable John Robinson, was found not guilty, even though he and another RUC officer had fired 19 shots into the car. He claimed they thought they had been shot at, but when it was found out that the two men were unarmed, they later falsely claimed that the two men had crashed through a roadblock and the two police officers were fearful of being run down by the car.

The judge said he was not concerned with an RUC cover-up, only whether Robinson was guilty or not. Not surprisingly, he ruled that Robinson "honestly believed he was fired at and his life was in danger."


From a Manchester Guardian Weekly commentary on 15 April 1984:
MR JUSTICE MacDermott has acquitted a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Constable John Robinson, on a murder charge in one of the most controversial trials in the province in recent years. It was controversial not merely because of the verdict, although that alone has aroused anger in the nationalist community, but because the false account of the operation which was put out by the RUC at the time, and which was widely disbelieved, was destroyed by the evidence in court.
The deaths of Seamus Grew and Roderick Carroll, both members of INLA, took place at Armagh in December, 1982. The RUC said the car containing the two men had accelerated through a checkpoint at Girvan's Bridge on the Armagh to Keady road (it had not passed a checkpoint), knocking down a police officer who suffered slight injuries (no policeman was knocked down; one was injured elsewhere in a collision with another security vehicle). A police car flashing its blue lights (it was an unmarked car) gave chase and "forced the escaping car to stop" (it was not escaping). "The car then reversed at high speed . . ." (the handbrake was found to be on). "The driver of the car, Grew, then jumped out" (he did not; he and Carroll were shot 18 times where they sat). "The police, believing they were about to be fired on . . ." (they may have so believed, but Grew and Carroll were unarmed.)

It was not contested in court that the RUC story was a fabrication and that Constable Robinson was told not to reveal the nature of the operation because he would contravene the Official Secrets Act. The RUC story concealed the fact that an informant in the Republic had given warning that Dominic McGlinchey (then a wanted man, now in police custody) was coming across the border that night in a car driven by Grew, and that both were likely to be armed and would resist arrest. Robinson said he had been chosen for membership of a Special Support Unit attached to the RUC at Knock, East Belfast, and given training in firearms with the accent on "Firepower, speed, and aggression." The gun he used on December 12 was a Smith and Wesson 14-magazine double-action hand gun which was not standard issue. The day before the incident he had been briefed about an expected upsurge in terrorist activity. He was part of a heavily armed squad of police drafted into Co Armagh on the night before the operation.

In discharging Constable Robinson the judge said that he was satisfied that "the accused honestly believed he had been fired at and his life was in danger." There is no need to quarrel with that verdict, reached after an eight-day hearing, in order to point out that it addressed itself only, and in law rightly, to a narrow reconstruction of the case against the constable. What the judge did not have to decide (and what, in other circumstances, a jury might well have addressed in a rider) was the antecedent accumulation of pressure on the RUC, both in Northern Ireland and Britain, to show results in the campaign against INLA. The Armagh shooting came less than a week after INLA had claimed responsibility for the Droppin Well public house bombing at Ballykelly in which 17 people, soldiers and civilians, were killed. But before that act of carnage other IRA and INLA men had been shot in circumstances which the leader of the SDLP, Mr John Hume, described as confering "a licence to kill" and "legalised murder."

Last week the Irish Times commented: "There is abundant evidence that for a considerable time the RUC and the British Army have operated, officially, a 'shoot to kill' policy against suspected members of the provisional IRA and the INLA. In Latin America the forces which carry out such operations have become known as 'death squads' and have incurred the odium of the civilised world. The British authorities might care to explain the difference, if any." This luxurious comparison illustrates again the depressing and demoralising nature of the British role in Northern Ireland. To stay is to connive at the erosion of supremely valuable principles, for no one can deny that British standards of law enforcement and administration of justice have both suffered severely from events in the province. To leave is to betray a majority of people who want us to remain and probably to precipitate a civil war. If the forthcoming report of the New Ireland Forum were to make a slight obeisance to the size of this dilemma it would break new ground. There is, regrettably, little likelihood that that will happen, and as long as it does not the "odium of the civilised world" cannot rightly descend on only one of the two capitals intimately concerned.