Ex-Irish minister admits PIRA assistance

Neil Blaney
Neil Blaney

A former Irish cabinet minister has previously admitted giving assistance to and “accelerating” the emergence of the Provisional IRA.

Former leading Fianna Fail member Neil Blaney was speaking in The Sparks that Lit the Bonfire, a 1993 documentary by veteran BBC journalist Peter Taylor which still raises questions about the Irish government’s role in the creation of the PIRA.

In it, Neil Blaney, Irish agriculture minister 1966-70, said regarding the start of the Troubles: “The procurement of arms for the [Ulster Catholic] people to defend themselves was on. I knew very few people who did not have that view at the time.”

Kevin Boland, Irish minister for local government from 1966-70, added: “Street fighting training was given in Donegal by the Irish army. Ten men from Derry came and were given basic military street fighting training – this was done with the knowledge of the whole government.”

The documentary said the Irish government paid for a new newspaper to replace the Official IRA’s newssheet in Belfast. The aim was to replace demands for an all-Ireland socialist revolution with demands for a nationalist revolution in Northern Ireland alone. Dublin wanted reunification, but all Ulster Catholics wanted was civil rights, the documentary said.

‘Sparks’ claimed that 500 rifles were sent into Northern Ireland in April 1970 when the British Army first clashed with Catholics.

Former minister Boland added: “They [the rifles] were to be used as part of the contingency plans for local groups.”

Irish army captain James Kelly purchased £30,000 of arms on the continent, he said, under instructions from the Irish government. Minister Blaney was acquitted of involvement in the plot in the infamous Arms Trials, on the grounds that the purchase was not illegal as it was authorised by the Irish cabinet.

A named IRA leader said openly on film: “The promises of weapons and money were certainly designed to split the movement and create a northern command [ie, to create PIRA out of OIRA]. I am certain Fianna Fail have a responsibility in creating PIRA.”

Asked if Fianna Fail created the IRA, former minister Neil Blaney answered: “...We didn’t help to create them but we certainly would have accelerated by what assistance we could have given, their emergence as a force.”

The News Letter asked Fianna Fail to comment on the statements for several days this week. None had been given at the time of going to press. The News Letter also put the statements to the Taoiseach’s office for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Taoiseach replied: “We are not in a position to make any comment regarding the views of individuals contained in any documentary.”