Doug Beattie: PSNI must remove soldier’s rifle, mangled by IRA bomb, from republican museum

Kevin Carson, curator of  Roddy McCorley Society living history museum in Belfast holds the mangled metal frame of an L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle. The gun was reportedly found on the Omeath foreshore approximately a year after the Narrow Water IRA attack that killed 18 soldiers. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Kevin Carson, curator of Roddy McCorley Society living history museum in Belfast holds the mangled metal frame of an L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle. The gun was reportedly found on the Omeath foreshore approximately a year after the Narrow Water IRA attack that killed 18 soldiers. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The PSNI must confiscate a British soldier’s rifle reportedly taken from the scene of an IRA atrocity and now on show in a republican museum in west Belfast, an MLA has said.

UUP Justice spokesman Doug Beattie was speaking after the Roddy McCorley Society went public with its plans to secure official museum status, while displaying the remains of the rifle.

It was reportedly taken from the scene of the Narrow Water massacre in 1979. The double IRA bomb attack killed 19 soldiers in the most damaging single attack on the armed forces during the Troubles.

“This weapon must be confiscated by the PSNI to ensure all evidence has been gathered and a valid decommission certificate has been issued,” Mr Beattie said on social media. “Then it needs to be returned to MoD for disposal.”

A critic responded to him that there was “no right or wrong memorabilia”.

But Mr Beattie replied: “In the same way the Seán Graham bookies murder weapon should never be in a museum, neither should this weapon.” His critic conceded the point: “Yeah I agree with that.”

The museum also sports a pair of shoes given by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to former Belfast IRA commander Joe Cahill, who was convicted of gun running from Libya in a Dublin court in 1973.

But Jonathan Ganesh, who was seriously injured in the 1996 Canary Wharf bomb which used Libyan Semtex, condemned the exhibit. “Surely this is a sick joke?” he said.

Mr Ganesh was speaking after it was reported the collection is seeking official museum status.

The Roddy McCorley Society, based on the Glen Road in west Belfast, did not offer any comment. It is hoping to achieve museum accreditation and recently met with National Museums NI as part of the process.

Loyalist blogger and activist Jamie Bryson described the matter as “an utter outrage”.

He said: “The PSNI have spent three years seizing UVF flags, and badges and the like and holding press conferences saying they are indicative of membership of any proscribed organisation..... yet a republican museum is untouched?”

Det Chief Supt Bobby Singleton said: “Following today’s press coverage we are now aware of the existence of what is reputed to have been a weapon belonging to British Army personnel at Narrow water. We have now commenced initial enquiries with a view to establishing the veracity of these claims and what, if anything, PSNI will be legally required to do.”