In memory Óglach Diarmuid O’Neill

In memory Óglach Diarmuid O’Neill, who was murdered on 23 September 1996.

Early Activism

Soon after leaving school London-born O’Neill, whose parents later moved back to Ireland, was serving nine months in a young offenders’ institution for his part in a £75,000 cash fraud from a Bank of Ireland branch in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, where he worked. It was suggested that he had transferred cash from the elite to the Irish Republican and Basque causes.

On his release from jail he became a “sleeper” waiting to be activated.

International Solidarity with Basque Struggle.

He was a passionate advocate for the Basque struggle, his passion was shared by his partner who was from Amorebieta, near Bilbao. After his death, his Basque friends paid tribute to him by publishing an article in a Basque separatist movement ETA news paper,promising: “We will never forget you.”

The raid and execution of Diarmuid O’Neil.

During a police raid on 23 September 1996 unarmed Diarmuid O’Neill, aged 27, was shot and killed in a hotel by an armed police unit. On suspicion of involvement in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Diarmuid O’Neill had been under intensive police surveillance during the six weeks preceding his death.

The observation, carried out by the Metropolitan Police of London, was supposed to culminate in the arrest of Diarmuid O’Neill. In the immediate aftermath of the raid the media suggested on the basis of unattributable briefings that there had been armed violent resistance to arrest by the three.

However, evidence, which emerged later, indicated that the three suspects complied with all the police’s demands during the raid. More importantly, in contrast to the media’s version of events, it was revealed that none of them was in possession of firearms or explosives at the time of the raid.

Hotel Room ‘bugged’ by MI5.

The Met police bugged Diarmuid O’Neill’s hotel room and searched it on at least one occasion. The surveillance operation resulted in extensive video footage that reportedly covered the whole six weeks, EXCEPT the night of the raid on the hotel itself.

It was decided that the arrest should be conducted as an armed raid on the hotel, It is understood that the Met Police SO 19 were fearful of meeting the suspected IRA ASU, and in preparation for the raid members of SO19 – were shown video footage of the aftermath of the IRA’s Canary Wharf bombing in February of the same year.

British Police use unauthorised Rip Gas.

The officers were informed that the men in the hotel room may possess and make use of hand grenades, explosives and weapons. Furthermore, the officers were allowed to carry ‘Rip’ with them, the most potent form of CS gas available ‘’which had required prior Home Office approval for its use’’.

Although officers in court claimed that CS gas was only brought to be used in an emergency, the excessive use of the substance during the raid raises some issues.

Amnesty International is concerned that the substance had not been tested appropriately and thus the extent of its effects were not perfectly clear. Thus, the officers involved did not take into account the ways in which the actions of the suspects in the room would be affected, nor did they appear to have drawn conclusions about state of well-being of the suspects, considering the fact that they themselves were incapacitated by the gas seeping into the corridor.

On 23 September at 4.30 a.m. SO19 arrived at the hotel and apparently things went wrong from the start. To get access to the premises, where Diarmuid O’Neill was staying with his companions, and catch the three suspects by surprise the police had been supplied with an electric power key by MI5, which had previously been used on several occasions when police had entered and searched the room. However, that night the key would not fit the lock, leaving the officers unable to open the door.

The new situation prompted them to make use of an enforcer. This spring-loaded battering ram, that should have broken down the whole door, merely hit a hole in it.

At the same time, the decision was taken to make use of ‘Rip’, which was fired through the rear window into the room.

Not only were the suspects affected by the gas, but also the officers were forced to flee the scene to be sick outside as the gas started seeping through the hole in the door into the corridor.

Police stated later that it had been left as a voluntary matter as to whether individuals chose to bring gas masks or not. Only two of the officers returned to continue the operation; one of them, who was code-named ‘Kilo” would later fire the fatal shots at Diarmuid O’Neill. The officer in charge of the raid, however, stayed outside.

State Sanctioned Execution.

The recording device, which had been installed in the suspects’ room, helped to reconstruct what happened. From the beginning the suspects made clear that they were unarmed and would surrender. In the police’s official transcript of the tape one of the persons in the room – supposedly Diarmuid O’Neill – can be heard shouting ‘’We give up!’’, ‘’We’re unarmed!’’, ‘’Okay, we’re down, we’re down!’’ and ‘’They’re up, we’re on the deck!’’ in response to the police officers’ demands. According to the tape, the officers ordered Diarmuid O’Neill to open the door.

Diarmuid O’Neill complied with the officer’s demands, confirmed that they were unarmed several times and tried to opened the door as he was ordered to do. It would not open straight away, though, reportedly because it had been battered and broken by the enforcer.

The execution of Diarmuid O’Neill.

Diarmuid O’Neill would continue to try and thus follow the police’s instructions up to the time when officer ‘Kilo’ shot him three times in the abdomen and lower chest, hitting his spine and causing him to fall to the ground. He was shot another three times as he was falling.

The post-mortem examination of Diarmuid O’Neill’s body would later reveal a ‘’patterned’’ bruise on his scalp which according to the Home Office’s pathologist might have resulted from ‘’an individual treading on his head’’.

Heavily bleeding and severely injured, he was then dragged down the steps and outside the building where he was denied vital medical care for 25 minutes despite the presence of an ambulance. He subsequently died in hospital.

Directly before the first burst of shots was fired one of the police officers was recorded shouting something, which according to Brian McHugh was a command to shoot; one of the officers commented on the sight of severely injured Diarmuid O’Neill: ‘’Dead as a fucking rat!’’.

State Cover Up begins…

Immediately after the incident the media published wrong information regarding the incident on the basis of unattributable briefings. This included the raid having involved a gun battle, explosives being found on the premises and witnesses that talked of exchange of gun fire and cries of ‘’Put down your guns!’’. Although these stories were denied and withdrawn within one day, the British public had been led to believe the previously published lies and – helped by the crude media coverage of the corrections – was thus unaware of the controversies surrounding the killing.

Rest in Power brave Volunteer

Fuair said bás ar son Saoirse na hÉireann.

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