A veteran Troubles journalist has said his documentary that shows former Irish cabinet ministers, an Irish army captain and PIRA members claim they helped create the Provisional IRA should not be ignored in dealing with Northern Ireland’s troubled past.
BBC journalist Peter Taylor was talking to the News Letter about his 1993 documentary ‘The Sparks That Lit The Bonfire’, in which the interviewees claimed they worked together to create a splinter group from the Official IRA which later became known as the Provisional IRA.
Former cabinet ministers Neil Blaney and Kevin Boland were investigated closely on the issues in the 1970s arms trials, but were acquitted.
In the wake of the recent Smithwick Tribunal findings of Garda-IRA collusion, the News Letter asked Mr Taylor if the Republic of Ireland government or Fianna Fail had given any reaction to the documentary after it was broadcast.
He replied: “No, no reaction from Irish government or Fianna Fail that I can recollect. Yes, it was a seminal piece.”
Asked if he thought the testimonies he secured should be addressed by the Irish government now as part of attempts to deal with Northern Ireland’s past, he replied: “I think it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored.”
In September Dublin Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore made a strong overture to unionists that his government is prepared to investigate allegations that his state could have done more to thwart the IRA.
Asked by the Irish Times if he was referring to issues such as the 1970s arms crisis, unionist allegations that the IRA frequently could make easy escapes across the border after gun and bomb attacks, and complaints about extradition legislation, Mr Gilmore said the government would address “whatever the criticisms are”.
In the BBC documentary a leading PIRA member said 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, Mr 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.”
Asked if the issues raised should now be part of the dealing with the past process, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and Fianna Fail had not made any response at the time of going to press.