Taoiseach should remember some Irishmen in uniform also wore balaclavas

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s verbal takedown of a Sinn Fein TD in the Dail on December 18 made interesting viewing.

It was the latest in a series of tetchy exchanges in which senior Irish Ministers reminded Sinn Fein representatives of their party’s association with the IRA and the violent terrorism that was its stock-in-trade.

Scene of the Breen-Buchanan shooting, March 1989

Scene of the Breen-Buchanan shooting, March 1989

Varadkar told Pearse Doherty: “When it comes to Sinn Féin and the rule of law and public order and condemning violence, it does not take very long for your balaclava to slip.”

The comment went down like a lead balloon on the Sinn Fein benches. The Irish PM makes a valid point: Sinn Fein representatives have long been presenting the party as a guardian of rights and equality, whilst at the same time continuing to justify IRA murder, intimidation and economic destruction as legitimate means to a political end.

There is, however, an air of hypocrisy in Varadkar’s attack on Sinn Fein for that organisation’s association with the IRA and its violent campaign.

As the News Letter reported on December 19, according to a former Irish soldier the IRA infiltrated the Irish Defence Forces during the terror campaign. We know members of the Garda also colluded with the IRA; the Smithwick Tribunal was told Gardai shared intelligence with terrorists that led to the murders of senior RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchannan in 1989, and Castlederg civilian Ian Sproule in 1991.

Trevor Clarke

Trevor Clarke

Whilst blanket allegations of terrorist collaboration have been poured on the UDR and RUC by a well-organised republican PR machine and its proxies, collusion between the IRA and Irish state agencies has escaped the same degree of attention. It is more of 10 than not conveniently ignored, but is deserving of proper scrutiny.

When Leo Varadkar next speaks about balaclavas slipping, as minister responsible for the Irish Defence forces he should think long and hard about those in McKee Barracks who propped up IRA terrorism in the past.

He should reflect on how ministers in an earlier Irish administration funded, armed and facilitated IRA training at the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland.

He needs to acknowledge the resultant ‘soft’ southern Irish border led to extensive loss of life in Northern Ireland.

Most importantly the Irish Prime Minister should take steps to establish an independent inquiry into Irish state–IRA collusion as a matter of urgency, otherwise there will be many people taking the view that he is yet another Irish leader intent on perpetuating the cover-up that has already gone on far too long.

• Trevor Clarke is a DUP councillor in Coleraine