Irish state avoiding hidden history on birth of PIRA, claims Robinson

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson

The Irish government is avoiding a “hidden history” that ties it to the birth of the Provisional IRA, First Minister Peter Robinson has told The Detail website.

In his most outspoken comments to date on the legacy of the Troubles and the role of the Irish government, he accused Dublin of “drawing a blind” over uncomfortable episodes of history.

Mr Robinson raised issues linked to the Arms Trial of 1970 and said an army officer and two government ministers were ‘scapegoated’ in court to distract from controversial claims that the Irish government of the day was preparing to arm Northern Ireland Catholics.

“There have been a number of journalistic inquiries into the Arms Trial issues which showed a very clear responsibility on the part of the state,” said the DUP leader.

“But it has been buried. People don’t want to talk about it.

“It’s not a case of being embarrassed, they seem to be offended if the issue is raised, but at the same time are quite happy to point the finger at the British state in terms of issues where they are unhappy.”

He called for all government files on the Arms Trial era to be opened to independent scrutiny.

“We have not been able to get the documentation. It is abundantly clear that the responsibility that seemed to fall on (Capt James) Kelly, was one that was placed on him by the state.”

The authorities in Dublin have always denied the arms plot had government sanction, but Mr Robinson said: “It is a period of time which shows very clearly that the Irish state was funding the guns going to the Provisional IRA, was preparing itself to invade Northern Ireland, and now of course they sit back and try and draw a blind over this area of history.”

He denied that his party was levelling allegations against the Irish Republic in a bid to counter the existing evidence of collusion between British state forces and paramilitaries. Mr Robinson said the vast majority of killings in the Troubles were carried out by paramilitaries, not security forces.

Challenged on whether, in fact, it was violent unionist opposition to civil rights reforms for the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland that had led to the 1969 crisis, he said: “It would be right to say that it started in Northern Ireland but it would be entirely wrong to say that those who helped fund the Provisional IRA, start the Provisional IRA, an organisation that went on to kill thousands of people, was some side issue of history, there is very considerable blame on those who were involved in that exercise.”

The Irish government declined to be interviewed but Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin said it was not culpable for IRA crimes. Such inaccuracies were not true and could “undermine the hard won trust and improved north-south relations”, he said.

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