Tuesday, January 28, 2014
James Crossan- KIA
(Note: Crossan was also an Intelligence Officer for the IRA and had been a member of Teeling Column, taking part in the raid on Derrylin Barracks on the opening night of the Campaign. He was the last volunteer to be killed during Operation Harvest.)
2 September 1999 Edition
Remembering the Past: Sinn Féin organiser assassinated in Cavan
By Aengus O Snodaigh
Sinn Féin members have been targets for the murderous intent of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary for many years. Several members have been assassinated by the members of this infamous force in the last 30 years, many others have died because of the collusion of RUC officers with pro-British deaths squads. Many of these death squads are co-ordinated or directed by other members of the British occupation forces. Much of this collusion has been exposed in recent years.
That RUC officers could operate outside the law or get immunity for their crimes became clear very soon after their founding in 1920, with many deaths and shootings of nationalists occurring in ``disputed'' circumstances. One such assassination occurred in the early hours of a Sunday morning in August 1958.
Despite an attempted cover-up by RUC headquarters, the version of events they presented that afternoon was exposed when major contradictions were highlighted in their story.
The young man they shot dead was a native of Aughavas, County Leitrim, though he lived at Cloneary, Bawnboy, County Cavan, with an uncle. Though only 26, he was a prominent Sinn Féin member. A farmer, he was also the organiser for County Cavan and had been Director of Elections for Pádraig O Dubhthaigh, who polled over 3,000 votes in the general election of March 1957 in County Cavan.
With the recommencement of the IRA's war against the occupation forces in Ireland in December 1956, Crossan and other republicans came under the increased attentions of the forces of the state on both sides of the border. There was an increase of harassment of nationalists in the area in general in 1957 and 1958, with shots being fired across the border by RUC men at people in the 26 Counties, several `incursions' by both British army and RUC patrols, undercover RUC men attending commemorations in the South or `visiting' the houses of known republicans in counties Cavan and Monaghan and several people being `arrested' and spirited across the border to be brought before a British court or interned without trial. On many occasions, men arrested in the County Fermanagh area were questioned about Crossan. Crossan was undaunted, as his work was open and legal, and he never expected to be shot dead for his beliefs.
On the eve of that fateful Sunday in 1958, James Crossan had travelled to Swanlinbar to procure a Tricolour to fly at a Sinn Féin meeting to be held the following night in Ballyconnell, County Cavan. Driven there by his neighbour Sean Reilly, they met another Sinn Féin member Ben McHugh and went to a bar in the town. Here they met a cattle dealer, Glover Rooney from Kinglass, Macken, County Fermanagh and an RUC `B' Special sergeant, Stanley Moffat. They agreed to give the two a lift on their way home to the border crossing near Mullen where Rooney had parked his van. Another man, the barman Thomas McCarron, was also offered a lift home as he lived near the border crossing. On reaching the border, Rooney, McCarron and Moffat headed over the crossing on foot, with Crossan and McHugh accompanying them on the short journey.
As Crossan and McHugh were returning, shots rang out. The night sky was lit up and James Crossan lay dead, shot by assassins lying in wait on the County Cavan side of the border. Ben McHugh was grabbed, arrested, brought across the border and held incommunicado.
The cover-up began immediately, with the RUC issuing a statement to say that the men were intent on attacking Mullen Custom Post with high explosives and that Crossan was shot after he was challenged. No challenge was ever heard by any of the witnesses, nor were any explosives ever found. McHugh was interned, not charged with conspiracy. A follow-up operation on both sides of the border, alluded to in the statement, never happened, as Sean Reilly, who had waited in his van for a while in the hope that Crossan or McHugh may return, saw nothing, wasn't challenged and drove unhindered home when he realised that something was awry.
None of the three men who got a lift to the border from Reilly were called to the inquest, nor were McHugh or Sean Reilly, who had witnessed the RUC men fleeing the scene. The RUC did not admit at the inquest two days later that one of its officers was in Crossan's company until shortly before his death. The admission only came later, following an Irish Republican Publicity Bureau statement. None of the assassins gave evidence to the inquest, though Head Constable W. J. Liggett gave a hearsay account of the events. The inquest returned a verdict of ``justifiable homicide'' at the behest of the coroner, J.R. Hanna, who didn't call on any other witness.
A while after the inquest, the `B' Special sergeant, Stanley Moffat, corroborated the statements issued by the Irish Republican Publicity Bureau and details of events as reported by Sean Reilly and said that he did not think it likely that McHugh or Crossan were intent on any attack on a custom post when he left.
James Crossan was given a republican funeral, attended by thousands. He was buried in Kilnavert Cemetery, County Cavan on the same day as the inquest, August 26 1958. Sinn Féin organiser James Crossan was shot dead by RUC assassins (later named as `B' Special Head Constable Thompson Nixon and Constable J.A. Young) operating in the County Cavan in the 26 Counties 41 years ago last week (1999)