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The millions of quiet farmer Slab' Murphy; SWOOP OF THE CENTURY.

Byline: By JILLY BEATTIE

THOMAS "Slab" Murphy's shambling demeanour is no disguise for his razor-sharp mind and big business black-market credentials.

Feared and revered in his own community, the 62-year-old is a menacing figure as the IRA's chief of staff.

A multi-millionaire smuggler whose pig farm straddles the border counties of Armagh and Louth, he has not been convicted of a single offence to date.

Yet his family's farm at 71 Larkin Road, Ballybinaby, Hack-ballscross, Co Louth, was under constant scrutiny from British Army lookout towers for years.

One tower was built specifically to watch his movements.

While sources believe Murphy has amassed a e50million fortune from racketeering, smuggling, counterfeiting, drugs and porn, no one has been able to put him behind bars in the 20 years he had ruled his bandit country fiefdom.

It is thought that Murphy's meticulous attention to detail has kept him safe for so long, not only from the law but from the more brutal rules upheld by others in the terror gang.

Over the years Murphy has ensured the IRA only understood that he has grown rich without helping himself to a cent of the organisation's money.

His assets, which include large swathes of valuable border land, are kept separate from the assets accrued by him for the IRA.

The republican has always been a favourite among the public faces of the IRA wheeler-dealers.

He was involved with the IRA's South Armagh Brigade before becoming chief of staff of the IRA Army Council nine years ago.

His admirers enjoy the fact that this hapless looking farmer is something of a social none-en-tity, a non-smoker and moderate drinker who lives alone and likes GAA, darts and road bowls.

More importantly, of course, they respect Murphy because he has been the IRA's chief money man for the last two decades.

During that time he has been the linchpin of every deadly plan, job and campaign that devastated hundreds of lives during their murderous reign of terror.

For it was his incredible business brain, deft dealing and the moral vacuum that he operated in that ensured the IRA had the millions needed to keep going year after year.

Born on January 27, 1944, Murphy was 53 when he was made IRA chief of staff in 1997, 12 years after he was appointed by its Army Council to oversee Libyan weapons operations.

The result of that was 17 tonnes of arms smuggled from Libya to Ireland in two trips.

Even though Murphy has spent his life operating under intense intelligence surveillance from the RUC, PSNI and gardai, he has somehow carried out deadly republican business with impunity.

Despite his clean criminal record his name is linked with:

THE 1979 Narrow Water, Co Down, ambush in which 18 British soldiers were killed

THE Mullaghmore bombing in 1979 which killed Lord Louis Mountbatten, Nicholas Knatchbull, Paul Maxwell and the 82-year-old Dowager Duchess Doreen Brabourne

THE May 1995 IRA bombing that killed four RUC officers close to the border

THE 1996 3,300lb IRA bomb that blew up Manchester's Arndale Shopping Centre injuring 200 and,

THE 500lb IRA Canary Wharf Docklands bomb in London in 1996 that killed two men.

Now, though, Murphy - who inherited his nickname "Slab" from his hefty father - is battling to clear his name as a common crook who has made millions from illegal trade.

After a lengthy investigation by MI5, the PSNI, gardai, Assets Recovery Agency and Criminal Assets Bureau, he will now have to explain how a pig farmer has a e50million property portfolio.

But the protection and support Murphy attracts in many areas should not be underestimated.

A website that named Murphy and his IRA credentials was told by a writer identified as Vol to remove the name "or you will be found in a black bag on the side of the road in South Armagh with a bullet in the head".

CAPTION(S):

ADMIRED: 'Slab' Murphy' HOME: Co Louth farm' RESPECT: A young Murphy
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 10, 2006
Words:661
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