Friday, February 1, 2008

Red, Green or legal?

In the hill country that is the bad-land border between the Twenty-six and the Six Counties, one used frequently and openly to see hand-painted signs offering "green", "red", or most desirably "white" diesel.

This represented the retail end of yet another of the Sinn Féin scams of the years of the Troubles. Fuel prices, historically, have been lower in the Republic than in Northern Ireland, so there is one incentive to smuggle fuel.

That's not the whole reason for the racket, which is still there: it's just gone semi-legit. Here's how it works: UK motor fuel is taxed at 54.68p a litre; but heating oil is taxed at only 7.69p a litre. Spot the difference. To help the Customs do so, a dye (inevitably, red for the UK, green for the Republic) is added to the exempted fuel. The trick is to remove the dye. It also helps if paraffin is added to "stretch" the fuel. This is the "washing" process. It involves sulphuric acid, in large quantities.

Every few months one or other media outlet rediscovers the scam, and launches a "probe" (which amounts to reviewing the files, and re-writing the story, up-dating the official figures and republishing under a screamer headline).

The size of this operation is industrial: in July 2006 the PSNI raided a plant in Cullyanna, County Armagh, which was supplying 200,000 litres into the "legitimate" fuel market:
The operation in Cullyhanna, which may be one of dozens, would be capable of generating profits of over €6m a year.

The IRA's fuel-washing operations along the border continue to create major environmental problems. The toxic acid waste, produced by "washing" the dye out of the commercial kerosene, is highly poisonous as well as corrosive. It can burn through concrete. It is usually stored in acid-proof containers,then put on stolen trailers and dumped on country roads around the border. It is costing local authorities millions every year to ship the waste to Germany for disposal.
Compare that report with a similar one from two years previously:
A fuel laundering plant in County Tyrone capable of processing 25,000 litres of fuel per week has been discovered, Customs officers have said.
About 6,700 litres of diesel, a van, tanks, pumps and filtration and storage equipment were removed by officers in Coalisland on Thursday night.

Head of Detection Colin McAllister said the annual revenue loss of the plant would be about £650,000.
Notice the shift in focus, from revenue loss to environmental damage.

The Aughnacloy sewage works, in the County Tyrone, is a new facility, just four years old. For two of those years it has been devastated, wiped out, made useless by the dumping of acid into water-courses.

And the fuel-laundering is not just illegal, revenue-cheating, and environmentally threatening. It is also, quite explicitly, murderous. It also requires a rigorous and brutal code of omertà.

The name of Cullyanna (above) might seem vaguely familiar. It was the home of Paul Quinn:
Paul Quinn was found badly beaten at a farmhouse outside Castleblaney. He died later in hospital in Drogheda. Eight men were believed to be involved in the attack which used iron bars and nail-studded cudgels.

Paul Quinn went to the farmhouse after a telephone call from two of his friends, who were forced to call him and ask him to come to the farm. On arrival he, and a friend, were taken to an outhouse and beaten with iron bars. Those with him also attended hospital for their injuries.

A statement from Paul Quinn's family alleged that Provisional IRA members were involved in his death. This allegation was denied by Conor Murphy, the local Sinn Féin MLA and Gerry Adams, who claimed the murder was linked to fuel smuggling. Paul Quinn had recently been involved in an altercation with some PIRA members and had been told to leave Northern Ireland.

To which Lord Laird contributed his take, in the debate of 12th November, 2007:
... the brutal murder of Paul Quinn ... resulted from a dispute between Paul and a son of Vincent Traynor, a local IRA chief. Paul Quinn and some other youths from the area were involved in activities that did not go down well with the senior republican leadership in South Armagh ...

Several weeks ago Traynor asked the republican leadership, including Peter and Patrick Quinn from Bog Road—no relations—who run most of the illegal fuel laundering plants in South Armagh for the IRA, to have Quinn executed. After consultation with PJ Carragher and his son Michael, the well known murderous sniper, Thomas “Slab” Murphy, the Provisionals’ commander in the area, Sean Gerard Hughes, known as “the Surgeon”, and James McArdle, permission for the execution was given. Almost 20 republicans were present at the murder as executioners, lookouts, drivers and so on. The eight or nine who conducted the execution were dressed in boiler suits and wore surgical gloves. All were IRA or former IRA members. It took almost half an hour for Paul to die. Every major bone in his body was broken. During the execution he cried for mercy.

Malcolm makes no apology for going over old ground here: the shame is that, weeks later, no charges have been laid. Nor for by-passing the otherwise dubious public behaviour of John Laird. On this one, more power to his elbow.

The blood used to be on the coal, to the point of being a cliché. Now it's equally in the fuel oil. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

yourcousin said...

The blood has been on the oil for quite a long time now. I'm not sure whether or not I agree that it's a SF scam. Certainly there's a cross over element but as to whether or not they're the center of it? I don't thinks so, at least in S. Armagh it seems to me that the armani suits tread lightly in lieu of coveralls and mucker boots. Indeed there's much less blood now than ever before since the proceeds no longer fuel the armed struggle. I know it's more of a rhtetorical thing linking SF to the murder, but still. As much as people want to get worked up over this killing and the McCartney case. Is this really anymore than the actions of "ceasefire soldiers"? Laird's other oddities aside his contention that Slab and the Surgeon were involved do seem to be stretching it a bit especially in that he states that the intention was to murder Quinn the entire time. My own ignorant assessment would be that this is a punishment beating gone wrong, nothing more nothing less.

Does this make it anymore right? Certainly not, but then again, the blood on the coal hasn't shut down the mines or our demand for coal. To think that the unwarranted death of a young man will change utterly the social structure of the "badlands" is unlikely. However much the outside world wishes that "they would go away" we do well to remember that no one has been brought to justice on Omagh. If an organization with no real support can get away with mass murder are we really surprised that the bandits who run bandit country can do something similar with impunity?

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