By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — A prominent republican opponent of the Northern Ireland peace deal is recovering in an undisclosed location from a beating he received from a gang of men who abducted him from outside a hotel in County Monaghan last weekend.
Paddy Fox, 29, from Dungannon, was abducted by a gang of six or seven men on the day an interview with him was carried in the London Observer newspaper in which he spoke of his fears for his life from members of the pro-peace wing of the Provisional IRA.
Fox, who served a prison sentence for an attempted IRA bombing in Northern Ireland, had been hiding south of the border.
The gang held him for nine hours before his family received a call telling them where to collect him.
His sister Patricia Kearney said he had been badly beaten about the face and body but was not seriously injured. She said he knew his attackers.
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"He is badly bruised about the face," Kearney said. "His left eye is badly swollen and closed. He is bruised on his body. He is just very sore."
The abduction follows the murder of former IRA supergrass Eamon Collins, who was found badly beaten and stabbed to death near his home in Newry, Co. Down.
Fox, who claims not to have joined a dissident group and to have remained within the Provisional movement, told the Observer that he had lived behind fortified steel doors in his home after the first IRA cease-fire broke down, fearing he might be a target for a loyalist murder gang.
Recently he claimed he was again in fear because of his outspoken criticism of the Sinn Fein leadership and the peace agreement.
Admittedly "nervous and under deep strain," he said that three masked men had tried to snatch him from outside his Dungannon home earlier about two weeks ago.
He claimed his problems started when his brother found four Provisionals from East Tyrone searching his home last November.
"If Sinn Fein want to go into a unionist-dominated Stormont government, then that’s their choice," Fox told the observer. "But they should allow us the right to oppose it, to have the freedom of conscience to say so.
"Everything is not rosy in the garden for the leadership. Many republicans are unhappy with the Good Friday Agreement. They are saying it is not worth all the sacrifice, and these voices are getting louder."
Fox had been sentenced to 10 years in 1991 after being caught with a van bomb in Dungannon.
A year later, while he was in prison, his parents, Charles, 63, and Teresa, 53, were shot dead when Ulster Volunteer Force gunmen burst into their home near Moy, Co. Armagh.
Two of the chief suspects, Billy "King Rat" Wright, from Portadown, and Robin Jackson, from Lurgan, are both themselves dead. Wright was shot in the Maze and Jackson died of cancer.
Another former IRA man, Sean O’Callaghan, 44, also expressed fears for his life in an article in the newspaper. He worked inside the IRA for the Irish government and was jailed for two murders in Northern Ireland.
Unlike Collins who lived openly in Northern Ireland with his family, O’Callaghan is constantly on the run, though he refused a new identity from the RUC.
"I know that the IRA wants to kill me and in all probability that will remain the case for the rest of my life," he said. "They may be on their way to murder me — I accept that, but give no legitimacy to those who would act as judge, jury and executioner."