This week the Taoiseach said he could not apologise for IRA actions in the 1976 Kingsmills massacre. But what did his office say about secret state papers and admissions by 1969 Irish ministers which suggest PIRA collusion?
Philip Bradfield reports
Some 40 relatives of the 1976 Kingsmills massacre victims – and its sole survivor – travelled to Dublin this week to ask the Taoiseach to apologise for the Irish state’s failure to stop the IRA using the Republic as a safe haven during the Troubles.
It was understood to be the first time a Taoiseach has formally met IRA victims from Northern Ireland.
Stormont Minister Danny Kennedy, welcomed the event as “historic”. But he reported back the families’ “disappointment” that Taoiseach Enda Kenny told them he could not apologise for the actions of the IRA in the south Armagh slaughter as the Irish state was not responsible.
The attack took place when an IRA gang had stopped the 10 Protestant workmen on their way home from work in 1976 and lined them up against their minibus before cutting them down in a hail of over 100 bullets.
University of Ulster Professor of Politics Henry Patterson told the News Letter yesterday: “The Taoiseach is correct that the IRA was responsible for the Kingsmills attack and it is also true that Fine Gael ministers at the time were bitter opponents of the IRA. It was within Fianna Fail that ‘sneaking regarders’ with sympathies for the IRA were a problem, particularly in the early years of the Troubles.
“However, it remains the case that just as the British state has questions to answer in relation to the role of the security forces during the Troubles, the fact that the Provisional IRA was able to exploit the territory of the Republic throughout its campaign raises important issues for the Irish state.”
More recently historian Brian Hanley and journalist Scott Millar detailed contacts between the IRA and Fianna Fail representatives even prior to the outbreak of widescale violence in Northern Ireland in August 1969.
In their book, The Lost Revolution, they claimed to reveal the extent of the Irish government’s fears about a resurgent [Official] IRA south of the border; and how Dublin planned to split the Official IRA, and thereby helped create the Provisional IRA. They noted how the Irish Department of Justice wrote a memo to the Irish cabinet, dated March 18, 1969, recommending that the Irish government create a split in the Official IRA.
The Irish Cabinet memo (scans of which are below) says: “In different parts of the country units of the IRA (and Sinn Fein) are uneasy about the new left-wing policy of their leadership and about the violent methods that are being adopted in the destruction of private property. Their uneasiness needs to be brought to the surface in some way with a consequent fragmentation of the organisation. It is suggested by the Department of Justice that the government should promote an active political campaign in that regard.”
Explaining the memo’s significance, Millar claimed it indicates that Jack Lynch’s cabinet was discussing plans to create the PIRA at least five months prior to the outbreak of major violence in Northern Ireland in August 1969 – the riots widely considered as the real beginning of the Troubles.
“Within nine months the IRA had split into socialist Official and more traditional Provisional factions,” Millar added.
Further serious questions have been raised previously by veteran BBC journalist Peter Taylor in his acclaimed 1993 documentary The Sparks That Lit the Bonfire. In it two Irish Cabinet ministers, Kevin Boland and Neil Blaney, and Irish army captain James Kelly, speak openly about what they saw as their role in helping create the IRA in the late 1960s. Comments they made in that documentary can be read in the article at the bottom of this page.
On Monday a DUP motion will be debated in the Assembly in which East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell will call for the Irish government to apologise for aiding “the birth of the Provo monster”.
“It is very clear from the Republic’s Justice memo, when set alongside the numerous other pieces of information and direct quotes attributable to Irish government ministers Blaney and Boland, there was direct Irish government involvement in the creation of the Provisional IRA during 1969,” Mr Campbell said yesterday.
“Relationships between our two countries are now much better but the fundamental issue here is that while the IRA were responsible for the activities that culminated in over 3,500 deaths in Northern Ireland, the government of the Irish Republic at that time was complicit in the assistance and resources it gave at the birth of the Provo monster.”
Sinn Fein was asked to comment on the Department of Justice memo and the comments from Irish Cabinet ministers and Capt James Kelly. However the party declined to comment.
The News Letter also asked the Taoiseach’s Office to comment on the Justice memo and the comments from former Irish Cabinet ministers and Capt Kelly.
A spokeswoman for the Taoiseach replied: “Cabinet papers are retained in the National Archives and are released for general public review after 30 years, subject to any specified exemptions.
“We are not in a position to make any comment regarding the views of individuals contained in any documentary.”
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