Declassified Files: Noraid’s IRA fund-raising role waning, embassy told NIO in 1994

Noraid’s significance to the IRA’s fund-raising operation had been declining for years, according to a previously classified 1994 cable from the British Embassy in Washington.

The 9 February 1994 dispatch, which was sent by Jonathan Powell – who would go on to become Tony Blair’s chief of staff – provided analysis of Gerry Adams’ controversial 48-hour visit to New York after the Clinton administration agreed to grant him a visa to enter the country.

Jonathan Powell went on to become Tony Blair's chief of staff

Jonathan Powell went on to become Tony Blair's chief of staff

The account said that the high profile visit might help Noraid, which raised money for the IRA, but that the fundraising group’s income “has been declining over the years and it has become a less significant part of overall IRA funding”.

The paper said that the embassy had warned the Clinton administration that “if Gerry Adams were granted a visa he would receive wide and largely uncritical media exposure. When the prediction was borne out they expressed surprise and tried to limit his appearances on television. Anyone with extreme views...can guarantee coverage on American television.

“Adams played the game skilfully. He chose programmes with relatively large audiences but renowned for easy questions, notably Larry King Live and Good Morning America.”

The embassy said that Mr Adams’ visit “was a set-back for our information effort”.

“We have worked hard for the last 20 years to marginalise the IRA in the US. His mild manner and apparent reasonableness will have given him a new legitimacy with some innocents in the audience.

“But we should not exaggerate this impact. The American attention span is short. Television was already bored with Adams after 24 hours and moved on to other stories. His failure to say anything new meant there were no follow-up stories.

“Adams’s double-speak turned off interviewers and audiences and his accent proved impenetrable for many Americans. His impact may well turn out to be ephemeral.”