Monthly Archives: December 2017

Irish Media’s Coverage Of State Papers Just Not Good Enough

UPDATE – See comment below from on UVF letter. The blog specialises in covering Loyalist paramilitary matters. It echoes my reservations re the UVF letter to Haughey……


At the end of December or beginning of January every year we go through the  ritual of reading reports about what the government of the day thirty years ago said or believed about this or that. Sometimes the subject matters deal with very important events; very often they keep the juicy bits from view.

We get to read the reports in The Irish Times or watch/listen to them on RTE but we never actually get to see the documents themselves, so we can a) read the whole thing and not depend on the judgement of some reporter whose beat may normally be something entirely different; or b) make up our own minds about the credibility of the source.

That is especially the case this year when we were told that the UVF had written a letter back in 1987 to then Taoiseach Charles Haughey stating that MI5 had allegedly incited the UVF to assassinate him and that they had also supplied the detonators in the bombs which killed the Miami Showband in 1975 (the bombs also exploded prematurely killing the UVF bombers).

Now I have never, in all my years covering the Troubles, seen or heard of the UVF sending letters, never mind one to an Irish prime minister. What does a letter with UVF letterhead look like? What address do they give? How did the government of the day check its authenticity? Did anyone bother to drive up the Shankill to ask? Is it a real letter or an elaborate hoax? I’d like to know and seeing a copy of the original would help me, and other readers/viewers decide.

In this age of smart phones and iPads/tablets equipped with sophisticated cameras there is no excuse for newspapers and TV companies not to demand from the government the right to reproduce the documents in their entirety. Very little bureaucratic hassle would follow and they are, after all, the peoples’ papers. They have a right to see them, even if only on the publication’s website. It happens here in the US routinely, so why not in Ireland?

Strangest Trump Moments Of 2017

Gerry Adams And The Loughgall Ambush – Some Necessary Background

There are a number of important caveats to bear in mind when considering reports in the Irish & British media today – see here, here and here – that Fr. Denis Faul, the Dungannon priest and human rights activist, had heard rumours, which he passed on to the Irish government, that Gerry Adams had set up the East Tyrone IRA unit to be wiped out by the SAS at the Loughgall ambush in May 1987.

Not least of these is the fact that Faul and the Provos were by 1987 at daggers drawn and Faul had reason both to dislike the Sinn Fein leader and to believe that he was capable of conniving at such cold-blooded slaughter.

Initially seen as an IRA sympathiser, so much so that the UDA once contemplated assassinating him, Fr Faul had fallen out badly with the Adams’ leadership during the 1981 IRA hunger strikes.

He had concluded, and was not alone in doing so, that a peaceful settlement of the protest had been sabotaged by Adams and his allies for political advantage, not least the anger at the British stirred up in the Catholic community.

Fr. Denis Faul

So, if Faul believed that Adams had connived at the death of comrades on hunger strike, he would also think him capable of doing the same to those gunned down at Loughgall. Faul died in 2006, so what he really meant by these reported comments went with him to the grave.

Eight crack IRA activists died in a hail of bullets at Loughgall – one estimate suggested 1200 rounds were fired – as they bombed an empty RUC station in the Co Armagh village on a balmy early summer evening. One Catholic civilian, caught up by chance in the ambush, also died and his brother was badly wounded.

The IRA death toll was the highest suffered by the organisation during the Troubles and the loss had an incalculable impact on the slowly developing peace process, not least devastating and demoralising the IRA and its support base in one of the strongest republican areas in the North, one expected to be the least sympathetic to the compromise inherent in the peace process strategy.

Fr. Faul had his reasons to suspect that Gerry Adams’ hand lay behind the ambush, but there were other, equally credible explanations, including mistakes made by the IRA team as well as routine British surveillance or the activities of informers unconnected to the republican leadership.

But in East Tyrone republican circles, the suspicion that the removal of the Loughgall unit was not a chance event and was somehow connected to subsequent political developments, has persisted.

When I set out to write about the IRA as it neared the end of its campaign in my book ‘A Secret History of the IRA’, I therefore devoted a whole chapter, called ‘Death in Tyrone‘, to Loughgall and its aftermath.

Below, you can read The Irish Times account of Fr Faul’s report to the Irish government and underneath that I have reproduced the chapter in ‘A Secret History’ devoted to the IRA in Tyrone after Loughgall.


Sinn Fein denies Gerry Adams ‘set up’ IRA Loughgall ambush

State Papers 1987: Sinn Féin president was accused of being behind the killings

Peter Murtagh, Ed Carty

The eight-man IRA unit killed in a shoot-out with soldiers following the bombing of the Loughgall RUC station. Clockwise from top left: Gerard O’Callaghan, Antony Gormley, James Lynagh, Eugene Kelly, Declan Arthurs, Patrick McKerney, Seamus Donnelly and Patrick Kelly. Photograph: PA

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was rumoured to have set up a notorious IRA gang for ambush by the SAS as they tried to blow up a police station in May 1987, previously secret files have revealed.

A Sinn Féin spokesman on Friday dismissed the claim as ‘utter nonsense’.

Eight members of the Provisional’s East Tyrone Brigade were shot dead after they loaded a 200lb bomb onto a stolen digger and smashed through the gates of the RUC barracks in Loughgall, Co Armagh.

British Army special forces were lying in wait and killed them all, along with innocent bystander Anthony Hughes.

Declassified documents released through the National Archives in Dublin revealed that ballistic tests on weapons found on the dead were used in 40-50 murders, including every republican killing in Fermanagh and Tyrone in 1987.

Three civilian contractors had been murdered in the counties that year along with officers in the RUC and British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment.

The rumour about Mr Adams was passed on to the Department of Foreign Affairs by the highly respected Fr Denis Faul about three months after the Loughgall operation.

The priest, who had been at school in St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon with Padraig McKearney, one of the IRA gang, said the theory doing the rounds was that “the IRA team were set up by Gerry Adams himself”.

Fr Faul said he was “intrigued” by the theory.

Mr Adams declined to comment on the contents of the file when contacted in recent days.

A spokesman for Sinn Féin said on Friday the suggestion that Mr Adams might have “set up” the Loughgall gang was “utter nonsense”. He said he had spoken with Mr Adams’s office about the matter but not with the former party leader.

Fr Faul, a school teacher and chaplain in Long Kesh prison who died in 2006, said the rumour was that two of the gang – Jim Lynagh, a councillor in Monaghan, and McKearney – “had threatened to execute Adams shortly before the Loughgall event”.

It was being claimed that Lynagh and McKearney “disliked Adams’ political policy” and that they were leaning towards Republican Sinn Féin.

Weapons recovered

Eight guns, including six automatic rifles, a shotgun and a pistol, were recovered from the bodies of the attackers. In a letter to Brian Lenihan – then tánaiste and minister for foreign affairs – dated May 20th, Northern Ireland secretary Tom King disclosed that ballistic tests showed that “the weapons recovered were responsible for every single murder and attempted murder in Fermanagh and Tyrone this year, and indeed further afield as well”.

Those killings included three civilian contractors as well as members of the RUC and Ulster Defence Regiment.

Details of the government’s response, and reactions to it, are contained in State papers relating to Lenihan. They show how the government held firm in the face of criticism from republican elements in Ireland and the United States, as well as from within Fianna Fáil, but also baulked at a suggestion from King that an appreciative letter from him be made public to underscore joint British-Irish resolve to defeat terrorism.

On May 9th 1987, the day after the attack, the tánaiste condemned it as a “futile act of violence of the Provisional IRA”, which he said had “warped policies”.

In a follow-up statement to the Dáil on May 12th, Lenihan branded the IRA’s campaign of violence “morally wrong” and instanced how it had murdered a civilian and used his body “as bait to murder two policemen” as well as torturing informers.

Lenihan said the only way to address injustices in the North was through politics and not “indiscriminate violence”, a position not adopted by Sinn Féin, the IRA’s political wing until 1996.

‘Security benefit’

Two days after that Dáil statement, Daithí Ó Ceallaigh, an Irish diplomat at the Anglo-Irish Secretariat (the Belfast-based bureaucracy operating the Anglo-Irish Agreement), cabled Dublin following a briefing from the British giving details of the attack and noting that “one particular security benefit has been the removal of three very experienced paramilitaries – Lynagh, Paddy Kelly and McKearney”.

The cable also says King was very grateful for Lenihan’s Dáil statement, which he felt would have “significant benefits in convincing unionists in Northern Ireland of the determination of the Irish government to co-operate with the British government on security matters” and bolster nationalists who support constitutional methods and eschewed violence.

He wished to write a letter of thanks to Lenihan and to publish it.

“Speaking personally,” wrote Ó Ceallaigh, “I told my opposite number that I saw no advantage in publishing such a letter. I have consulted [Michael] Lillis [head of the Irish team in Belfast], who considers it would be very damaging to publish any such letter.”

Dublin cabled back that it agreed fully with this – “the sec. state should not repeat not publish letter”, it said.

In the following days, another Belfast-based Irish official, David Donoghue, embarked on a series of meetings with Catholic religious figures and the deputy leader of the SDLP, Seamus Mallon, filing reports back to Dublin each time, each marked “Secret”.

Bishop Cathal Daly wanted the RUC to give a full account of what had happened, nationalist reaction to which he thought would not benefit Sinn Féin in west Belfast.

Bishop Edward Daly said Lenihan “got it about right” in his reaction to Loughgall. The bishop told Donoghue he was “struck by the lack of sympathy in the Derry area with the dead IRA men”, whom he described as having been “armed to the teeth”.

The bishop was “affected by his own abhorrence of the Provisional IRA and the disgust he felt at their hypocrisy”, Donoghue reported.

“As a further example of the IRA’s hypocrisy, [Daly] mentioned a recent case in which a Derry post office was robbed by two men, one of whom the post mistress recognised as a prominent Sinn Féin spokesman. Within half an hour a Sinn Féin councillor had called round to sympathise with the postmistress and, within an hour, Sinn Féin had issued a statement deploring such anti-social acts.”

‘Madman’ Lynagh

Bishop Joseph Duffy told Donoghue that Sinn Féin had tried to organise the funeral of Lynagh but he had refused to deal with them, talking only to the family.

Duffy told Donoghue that Lynagh, who came originally from Monaghan, “was regarded locally as a ‘madman’ who would ‘have to have been put away, one way or the other’,” and had been responsible for “some 20 murders”.

Other voices, however, attacked the government’s condemnatory response.

Lenihan responded to Rev Joseph McVeigh from Fermanagh that he would “make no apology for condemning the campaign of violence of the IRA”.

The Irish United Counties Association of New York, of which Martin Galvin – director of Noraid, Sinn Féin and the IRA’s US fundraising arm – was secretary, wrote to Lenihan, asserting the IRA men had been “summarily executed”.

“The Irish Republican Army volunteers were Irishmen fighting on Irish soil for the freedom of a portion of Ireland. The British barracks which they intended to attack, as well as the British troops, constitute an illegitimate fort and foreign army of occupation,” said their letter, signed by Galvin and the organisation’s president, Frank Feighary.

Uinseann MacEoin, an architect and republican activist, told Lenihan he had been “viciously anti-Irish”, a view rejected by the minister who told him and a handful of Fianna Fáil members who objected to his comments that they were in line with party policy of supporting peaceful politics only. – Additional reporting PA

Trump’s America (Continued)

December 28, 2017
By Joe Kloc

Three days before Christmas, US president Donald Trump held a signing ceremony for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which will provide middle-class households with an average tax break of $900 and will give the top one percent of earners an average savings of $90,000, an amount greater than the income of 70 percent of Americans. “We did a rush job,” said Trump, explaining that he wanted to sign the bill before Christmas so that he would not be criticized on the television news he reportedly watches for up to eight hours a day. Trump signed the bill into law with a large black marker; said that the press had given him “no credit” for signing more legislation than any other president in “the history of our country,” which he had not done; and added that he had some “beautiful pens” on his desk that he wanted to give to the boom-mic operators in his office, whose industry-wide average income in 2013 was about 0.3 percent of the additional annual tax savings the president is expected to receive. Trump, who has said the bill was “for the middle class” and would cost him “a fortune,” flew to his private club in Palm Beach; told a table of members that they “all just got a lot richer” from the tax bill, which allows corporate sales agents to take deductions for bar tabs; and traveled to West Palm Beach, where he played golf at one of his private courses and then visited a local fire station. “How’s your 401k,” Trump asked a group of firemen, who under the new tax law will no long be able to take deductions for the cost of cleaning their uniforms. Trump tweeted that companies had begun “showering their workers with bonuses”; a spokesperson for Wells Fargo, whose CEO made 527 times the average salary of a US bank teller in 2016, said the company would raise its minimum wage from $13.50 to $15 per hour; the CEO for AT&T, who received $16.1 million in stock awards and $5.7 million in non-equity incentives on top of his $1.8 million salary in 2016, said the company would give 200,000 employees a $1,000 bonus; an AT&T spokesperson confirmed that the company planned to lay off at least one thousand workers; and the former director of the Puerto Rican budget office said that the tax bill would raise the price for companies on the island manufacturing high-end goods, an industry that employs 75,000 workers and has an annual market value of about half the estimated cost of repairing the 200,000 homes damaged by Hurricane Maria. “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!” tweeted Trump, who in the 1980s banned Christmas trees from the lobby of one of his Manhattan apartment buildings as part of an effort to drive out longstanding elderly tenants and replace their homes with a luxury tower. “Business is looking really good for next year.”

Why Was George Smiley Never Sent To Belfast? – Le Carre Responds (Well, Sort Of…)

It is one of the ironies of John le Carre’s extraordinary career as the master of spy novels that while the British intelligence chief widely regarded as the model for his fictional MI6 hero served his country in Belfast in the war against the IRA, his celebrated imaginary facsimile never set foot there.

David Cornwell, better known as the spy writer John le Carre

Sir Maurice Oldfield, thought to be the model for le Carre’s spy chief, Smiley

The late Sir Alec Guinness, who played George Smiley in the BBC miniseries based on le Carre’s ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’

Maurice Oldfield, the head of MI6 from 1973 to 1978, was drafted to Northern Ireland in the autumn of 1979 after the assassination of Lord Mountbatten and the deaths of eighteen British soldiers in the Warrenpoint ambush, all at the hands of the IRA.

Oldfield’s task was to get the RUC and British Army intelligence operations working together against a common enemy but the following year, 1980, he left Belfast under a cloud after admitting he had used the services of male escorts.

George Smiley, Le Carre’s Delphic spy chief, who many believe was modeled on Oldfield also had sexual difficulties, but his were of the heterosexual sort and mostly revolved around his adulterous wife, Ann. And he never served in Belfast.

Given the centrality of the Troubles to British life during much of Le Carre’s writing career and the fact that the war between the IRA and the British was largely fought out in the dark world of agents, informers and their handlers, this begs the obvious question. Why did Le Carre never send Smiley across the Irish sea?

Both myself on this blog, and Village magazine in Dublin were prompted to write articles posing that question. You can re-read the pieces here.

I decided to take the matter a step further and wrote to le Carre himself to ask the question and to wonder whether he might write a few words on the matter for this blog (if you don’t ask, you don’t get!).

First my letter to John le Carre (real name David Cornwell) followed by the response. At least I tried:


Is The Cyst In Dog’s Ear Really Trump Hiding From The FBI?

The photo on the left is of a cyst in a dog’s ear. On the right is a pic of Trump. I’d bet the mortgage the cyst would make a better president.

Watch This Trump Video But Keep The Zinc Bucket Close By