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Thursday, June 25, 1998 Published at 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK


IRA man jailed for 25 years.

The blast killed two people and injured 40 others

An IRA paramilitary has been jailed for 25 years for his involvement with the massive rush-hour explosion which devastated London's Docklands, killed two people and injured dozens.

James McArdle, 29, was sentenced to 25 years for his part in the 1996 bombing which marked the end of an IRA ceasefire.

McArdle was convicted at Woolwich Crown Court on Wednesday of one charge of conspiring with others unknown to cause explosions between October 30, 1995, and February 10, 1996.

Newsagents Inam Bashir and John Jeffries both died in the blast.

McArdle, a bricklayer and farm labourer from Crossmaglen, County Armagh, faced two murder charges. The jury had yet to reach a verdict before they were discharged following prejudicial reports in a national newspaper.

[ image: McArdle: jailed for 25 years]
McArdle: jailed for 25 years
During the trial, the jury heard how McArdle was at the heart of an elite IRA active service unit intent on ending an 18-month ceasefire.

The explosion was heralded by a series of "inaccurate and wholly inadequate warnings" which prevented a proper evacuation of the area and marked the end of the ceasefire, the court heard.

During two days in the witness box, McArdle assured the jury he had simply been an innocent dupe.

He agreed he was an IRA supporter, but went on to deplore the bombing as "wicked" and spoke of his sadness at learning it had signalled the end of a ceasefire.

In sentencing McArdle, the judge said he accepted he did not intend to kill anyone or cause really serious injury.

He said: "Nor did you personally appreciate the risks of this conspiracy.

"However, objectively there was a substantial risk of both death and injury and this conspiracy did in fact result in two deaths and many injuries, some of such severity that the victims' lives will be permanently marred.

"The conspiracy resulted in damage in excess of £150m and engendered terror and misery for many, many people.

[ image: The bomb in 1996 marked the end of IRA ceasefire]
The bomb in 1996 marked the end of IRA ceasefire
"There is a real irony that you fall to be sentenced on the very day when Northern Ireland goes to the polls to take a major step forward towards resolving its difficulties."

The judge said he hoped that McArdle was being sentenced at a time when the IRA campaign of terror and violence could be coming to an end may offer a "crumb of comfort to those who suffered so much as a result of your actions".

He went on: "But nothing can realistically comfort the families of the two men who died and the many others who were injured and whose lives were marred by the dreadful explosion. They should not be forgotten.

"You yourself in evidence described the explosion as wicked and I endorse your description."

If the plan had not been hatched under the guise of a ceasefire, the two men who lost their lives may have evacuated the area in a greater hurry, the judge said.

Mr Justice Kay said he recognised McArdle was no casual recruit and that he was fully capable of playing an active role in the conspiracy. He said he noted McArdle had never shown the "slightest remorse" for his actions.

As McArdle was led from the dock he waved to supporters sitting in the public gallery who responded with victory signs and raised clenched fists.

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25 Jun 98†|†UK
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