Thomas Murphy (Irish republican)

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Thomas Murphy
Nickname(s) "Slab"
Born (1949-08-26) 26 August 1949 (age 65)
Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, County Louth, Ireland
Years of service 1969–1998
Rank Chief of Staff of the Provisional Irish Republican Army
Commands held South Armagh Brigade
Provisional Irish Republican Army
Battles/wars The Troubles

Thomas "Slab" Murphy (Irish: Tomás Mac Murchaidh: born 26 August 1949[1]) is believed to be the former Chief of Staff of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.[2] His farm straddles County Armagh and County Louth, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.[3] One of three brothers, Murphy is a lifelong bachelor who lives on the Louth side of his farm.[3]

IRA career[edit]

Murphy was allegedly involved with the South Armagh Brigade of the IRA before being elected Chief of Staff by the IRA Army Council.[4] Toby Harnden (ex-correspondent for the Daily Telegraph) named him as planning the Warrenpoint ambush of 1979, in which 18 British soldiers were killed, and was also allegedly implicated in the Mullaghmore bombing the same day,[citation needed] which killed four people (including two children and Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma). Murphy was involved in smuggling in huge stockpiles of weapons from Libya in the 1980s[5] and was part of the army council that decided to end its first ceasefire with the London Canary Wharf Docklands bomb in 1996 that killed two men.[6]

Accused by the Sunday Times of directing an IRA bombing campaign in Britain, in 1987 Murphy unsuccessfully sued the paper for libel in Dublin[citation needed]. The original verdict was overturned by the court of appeal because of omissions in the judge's summing up and there was a retrial which he also lost. At the retrial, both Sean O'Callaghan and Eamon Collins, former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, testified against him, as did members of the Gardaí, ROI customs officials, British Army and local TD Brendan McGahon. Collins, who also had written a book about his experiences, Killing Rage, was beaten and killed by having a spike driven through his face, near his home in Newry eight months later. In 1998, a Dublin court dismissed Murphy's case after a high-profile trial, during which Murphy stated that he had: "Never been a member of the IRA, no way" and claimed not to know where the Maze prison was.[citation needed]

The jury ruled, however, that he was an IRA commander and a smuggler.[6][7] The Sunday Times subsequently published statements given by Adrian Hopkins, the skipper who ferried weapons from Libya to the IRA, to the French authorities who intercepted the fifth and final Eksund shipment. Hopkins detailed how Murphy met a named Libyan agent in Greece, paid for the weapons to be importated, and helped unload them when they arrived in Ireland. According to A Secret History of the IRA by Ed Moloney, Murphy has been the IRA Army Council's Chief of Staff since 1997. Toby Harnden's Bandit Country: the IRA and South Armagh also details Murphy's IRA involvement.[citation needed]

Smuggling allegations and denials[edit]

In October 2005, officers of the British Assets Recovery Agency and the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau carried out raids on a number of businesses in Manchester and Dundalk.[8] It was extensively reported in the media that the investigation is aimed at damaging the suspected multi-million pound empire of Murphy, who according to the BBC's Underworld Rich List, has accumulated up to £40 million through smuggling oil, cigarettes, grain and pigs; as well as through silent or partial ownership in legitimate businesses and in property.[9]

In his first-ever press release, issued on 12 October 2005, Murphy denied he owned any property and denied that he had any links with co-accused Cheshire businessman Dermot Craven (Frank Murphy, Thomas' brother, was a client of Cravens). Thomas Murphy stated:

I have been a republican all my life and fully support the peace process. I will continue to play whatever role I can, to see it work.

Furthermore, Murphy claimed that he had to sell property to cover his legal fees after his failed libel case against the Sunday Times and that he made a living from farming. He went on to say:

There is absolutely no foundation to the allegations about me which have been carried in the media for some time, and repeated at length over the past week, I want to categorically state, for the record, that all of these allegations are totally untrue."[10]

On 9 March 2006 police, soldiers and customs officials from both sides of the Irish border launched a large dawn raid on his house and several other buildings in the border region. Three persons were arrested by the Gardaí, but were released three days after. A fleet of tankers, computers, documents, two shotguns, over 30,000 cigarettes and the equivalent of 800,000 euros in sterling bank notes, euro bank notes and cheques were seized. Four laundering facilities attached to a major network of storage tanks, some of which were underground, were also found.[11] The Irish Criminal Assets Bureau later obtained seizure orders to take possession of euro cash and cheques and sterling cash and cheques, together worth around one million Euros.[12]

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams made a public statement in support of Murphy following the March 2006 raids. Under political and media pressure over allegations of the IRA's continued presence in South Armagh, Adams said:

Tom Murphy is not a criminal. He's a good republican and I read his statement after the Manchester raids and I believe what he says and also and very importantly he is a key supporter of Sinn Féin's peace strategy and has been for a very long time.[13]

He also said:

I want to deal with what is an effort to portray Tom Murphy as a criminal, as a bandit, as a gang boss, as someone who is exploiting the republican struggle for his own ends, as a multimillionaire. There is no evidence to support any of that.[14]

And also:

He's a good republican ... Tom Murphy was one of the supporters of this peace process.[15]

Assets seizure and settlement[edit]

Murphy was arrested in Dundalk, County Louth on 7 November 2007 by detectives from the Criminal Assets Bureau, on charges relating to alleged revenue offences. The following day, he was charged with tax evasion under the Tax Consolidation Act.[16][17] Murphy was later released on his own bail of €20,000 with an independent surety of €50,000.

On 17 October 2008, in an agreed legal settlement, Murphy and his brothers paid over £1 million in assets and cash to the authorities in Britain and the Republic, in settlement of a global crime and fraud investigation, relating to proceeds of crime associated with smuggling and money laundering. After an investigation involving the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau and the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency, over 625,000 euros (£487, 000) in cash and cheques was confiscated by the Republic's courts, while nine properties in northwest England worth £445,000 were confiscated by British courts.[2] Murphy is still fighting a claim in the Republic's courts for tax evasion, relating to non-completion of tax returns for eight years from 1996.

On 26 April 2010, he was further remanded on bail.[18]

In 2011, there were claims that Thomas Murphy had become disillusioned with the Northern Ireland peace process and that he had fallen out with Sinn Féin. However, there is no evidence to support he is sympathetic to any dissident republican groups. In March 2013, Gardaí and PSNI, along with members of the Irish Customs Authority and HMRC, raided Murphy's farm on the Louth-Armagh border. There was a report, that two hours prior to raid fire was seen coming from Murphy's yard, at around 4am, by the Sunday World. It was contended that Murphy was attempting to burn evidence, such as papers and computers, although farmers in the Republic often burn waste materials, in an effort to cut down on the amount of waste in their waste collection, because they are charged for the amount of waste materials collected by local councils.[19]


  1. ^ Harnden, Toby (1999). Bandit Country. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 27. ISBN 0-340-71736-X. 
  2. ^ a b Sharrock, David (17 October 2008). "Ex-IRA chief Thomas 'Slab' Murphy to hand over £1m criminal assets". London: The Times. Retrieved 17 October 2008. 
  3. ^ a b Owen Bowcott (10 March 2006). "Cross-border raid targets alleged IRA chief of staff". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2007. 
  4. ^ Harnden, Toby (1999). Bandit Country. Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 21–35. ISBN 0-340-71736-X. 
  5. ^ Moloney, Ed A Secret History of the IRA. Allen Lane/Penguin Press, 2002, p. 21.
  6. ^ a b Gerry Moriarty (7 October 2005). "Authorities pursue criminal assets in latest bid to get their man". The Irish Times. Retrieved 15 February 2007. 
  7. ^ "Raid on Alleged IRA Chief's Home". CBS News. 9 March 2006. Retrieved 15 February 2007. 
  8. ^ "Court grants seizure of 1m euros". BBC News. 7 October 2005. Retrieved 15 February 2007. 
  9. ^ "Underworld rich list". BBC News. 16 May 2004. Retrieved 15 February 2007. 
  10. ^ Arthur Beesley and Conor Lally (13 October 2005). "Murphy denies any links with Manchester firm". The Irish Times. Retrieved 15 February 2007. 
  11. ^ Enda Leahy and Nicola Tallant (12 March 2006). "'Slab' swoop nets €1m". London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved 15 February 2007. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Court grants seizure of 1m euros". BBC News. 23 March 2006. Retrieved 15 February 2007. 
  13. ^ "'Slab' raid is trouble for Sinn Féin". London: The Times. 12 March 2006. Retrieved 15 February 2007. [dead link]
  14. ^ David Adams (17 March 2006). "Drawing a Line Under the Past". The Blanket. Retrieved 30 October 2007. 
  15. ^ Alan Ruddock (28 October 2007). "Victim of a shabby trade-off". Irish Independent. Retrieved 30 October 2007. 
  16. ^ "'Slab' Murphy appears before Co Louth court". Radio Telefis Éireann. 8 November 2007. Retrieved 8 November 2007. 
  17. ^ "'Slab' Murphy in court on tax evasion charges". Irish Times. 8 November 2007. Retrieved 9 November 2007. 
  18. ^ "'Slab' Murphy remanded on bail". The Irish Times. 4 April 2010. 
  19. ^

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