IRA sniper McGinn found dead in Monaghan

An IRA sniper convicted of killing the last British soldier to die before the Good Friday peace agreement has been found dead.

Bernard McGinn, aged in his 50s, was a member of a notorious hit squad which targeted members of the security forces during the later years of the 30-year conflict.

His body was discovered today at a house in Monaghan town.

Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was murdered in South Armagh in February 1997. He had been talking and smiling to a Catholic woman when he was gunned down.

A Garda spokesman said: ``A man in his 50s was found dead in his house in Monaghan Town at 2pm this afternoon.''

A post-mortem examination is expected to be held.

In 1999 McGinn was given three life sentences for the murder of L/Bdr Restorick, shot in the back with a powerful weapon at an army checkpoint in Bessbrook.

The village is in a border area close to the Republic which was notorious for IRA attacks, where troops were often helicoptered around because it was too dangerous for them to go by road.

As L/Bdr Restorick was speaking to a local woman, Lorraine McElroy, who was passing the checkpoint, he was hit by a bullet fired from a Barrett Light 50 rifle, a high-powered US weapon used to kill nine soldiers and police officers in the North.

McGinn was also sentenced to a total of 490 years for a catalogue of terrorist offences including making the bombs destined for Canary Wharf, the Baltic Exchange and Hammersmith Bridge in London.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, he was released months after his conviction – he laughed at his sentences as he was led to the cells following the guilty verdict.

McGinn was also found guilty of murdering two other British soldiers. They were Lance Bombardier Paul Garrett in South Armagh in 1993 and former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier Thomas Johnston in 1978.

McGinn admitted to police that he made explosives north and south of the border on an almost daily basis: “like a day’s work”.

He and three other men were also found guilty of conspiring to murder a person or persons unknown in April 1997.

The continuing threat from dissident republicans established in opposition to the peace process was illustrated in March 2009 when two soldiers, army engineers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar, were killed in what a judge described as a “ferocious and ruthless” gun attack outside Massereene barracks in Antrim Town.

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