Declassified files: Ministers told about terror arrest of ex-CAJ contributor

Dr O hAdhmaill had done work for CAJ, an NIO official said
Dr O hAdhmaill had done work for CAJ, an NIO official said

The arrest on terrorism charges of an individual who had written for the Committee on the Administration of Justice’s monthly bulletin was noted at a senior level within the NIO, declassified files show.

A February 25 1994 memo from James Turner in the NIO’s Security Policy and Operations Division said: “In view of recent submissions on the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), ministers may be interested to learn that Phelim Patrick O hAdhmaill – until recently on the editorial staff of CAJ’s monthly bulletin, ‘Just News’ – has been charged with conspiracy to cause explosions and possession of explosives with intent.

“This follows his arrest in Accrington on 21 February, where he was apprehended by police and found to have a quantity of explosives and a firearm in his car.”

Mr Turner went on: “Mr O hAdhmaill was not a leading figure within CAJ and it is unlikely that the organisation would have been aware of his activities. This news does not therefore affect the conclusions of my submission dated 18 February.

“However, he was once a ‘respected’ lecturer at Queen’s and should now have plenty of time to add another dimension to his civil liberties research from within the confines of HMP.”

A note at the top of the memo, beside the name ‘Ms Johnston’, said: “I am sure this is not welcome news for the CAJ. It will not reflect well on their standing.”

Dr O hAdhmaill was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in jail, but was released after just four years under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

He subsequently returned to academia more than a decade ago and is now, under the name Féilim Ó hAdhmaill, a lecturer in the School of Applied Social Studies at University College Cork (UCC).