Bernard Henry McGinn

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Person.png Bernard Henry McGinn  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
DiedDecember 2013 (Age 56)
IRA member sentenced to a total of 490 years imprisonment in 1999.

Bernard Henry McGinn was a former volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), an organisation classified as an illegal organisation in the Republic of Ireland[1] and a terrorist group in the United Kingdom,[2] who was sentenced to a total of 490 years imprisonment in 1999.[3]

Background and IRA activity

McGinn was born into an Irish republican family, his father was a former Sinn Féin councillor and his brother-in-law Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has been a Sinn Féin TD for Cavan–Monaghan since 1997.[4][5] He joined the IRA aged 15, and in 1978 Dessie O'Hare and McGinn killed a former member of the Ulster Defence Regiment in Keady.[6] In 1979 McGinn was arrested at a disused farmhouse and charged with possession of explosives. He failed to turn up at his trial and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in his absence.[6] After several months on the run, McGinn was arrested in Dundalk following a 27 hour siege, during which he held a family hostage with a pistol and a hand grenade.[6]

McGinn was released from prison in 1987, and joined the IRA's South Armagh Brigade.[7] Initially viewed as an outsider, within several years McGinn became a trusted member of the Brigade, and helped to assemble bombs which were used as part of the IRA's campaign in England.[8] McGinn was also a member of one of the sniper teams, which killed nine members of the security forces between 1992 and 1997, including Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick. Restorick was killed by a single shot from a Barrett M90 sniper rifle on 12 February 1997, and was the last British Army soldier to be killed by the IRA during The Troubles.[9]

Arrest and trial

McGinn and other members of the sniper team were arrested by the Special Air Service at a farm near Crossmaglen on 10 April 1997, and taken to Gough Barracks in Armagh for questioning.[10] During a week of questioning, McGinn confessed to his role in the IRA bombing campaign, and also implicated more than twenty members of the South Armagh Brigade in attacks in both Northern Ireland and England.[11] McGinn claimed to have manufactured explosive mixes on a daily basis varying from between 200 lb and 10 tons, and said it was "like a day's work".[3][11]

On 19 March 1999 McGinn was sentenced to a total of 490 years imprisonment for 34 separate offences, including the murder of three British soldiers, and involvement in the 1992 bombing of the Baltic Exchange, the 1996 South Quay bombing, and the bombing of Hammersmith Bridge later the same year.[3][12] McGinn laughed at his sentence, knowing that he would be freed in just over a year under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.[3] Two months after his conviction McGinn was temporarily released on compassionate grounds to visit his sick mother, which angered Unionist politians including Jeffrey Donaldson and Nigel Dodds.[4] On 28 July 2000 McGinn was freed from HM Prison Maze, after spending just 16 months in prison since his sentencing.[13]


On 5 October 2000 McGinn's convictions for explosives offences and the soldiers' murders were overturned at the Court of Appeal in Belfast. The convictions were overturned on the grounds he was not properly cautioned before he confessed, but the court dismissed appeals against convictions for conspiracy to murder and firearms possession, for which he received a twenty year sentence at his original trial.[10][14]


  2. Home Office - Proscribed Terror GroupsHome Office website, retrieved 11 May 2007
  3. a b c d
  4. a b
  5. Harnden, Toby (1999). Bandit Country. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 314. ISBN 034071736X
  6. a b c Harnden, p. 315.
  7. Harnden, p. 316.
  8. Harnden, pp. 316-317.
  9. Harnden, pp. 387-390.
  10. a b Taylor, Peter (2001). Brits. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 355–357. ISBN 0-7475-5806-X.
  11. a b Harnden, pp. 313-318.