Declassified FBI Files On Noraid, 1987 – ‘Noraid In A State Of Confusion….’

The last FBI file examined on this blog, for the year 1986, actually ended in July/August 1987 and this file continues the story until the end of 1987.

And it is the same story that characterised the previous six months or so, a file filled with FBI reports based on conversations with a growing number of Noraid spies ‘of proven or continuing value’ in most cases. But a new element enters the Noraid narrative in the latter part of 1987: ‘division and disarray’.

From this chapter in the Noraid story it is possible to construct or at least entertain a theory about such groups: when ideological divisions occur then treachery prospers.

The divisions had their origin in the November 1986 Sinn Fein ard-fheis and the more secret IRA Convention held beforehand, which dropped the organisation’s long-held opposition to taking seats, if elected, in the parliaments established by the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, an agreement reviled as apostate by traditional Irish republicans because it accepted the partition of the country in defiance of the popular votes of 1918 and 1921.

I say parliaments but in fact the decision applied, initially at least, to just one parliament, the body in Dublin known to nearly everyone as Dail Eireann and to traditional republicans as Leinster House. The ban on taking seats at Stormont (a theoretical proscription in 1987 since no such body existed) was later dropped leaving only the prohibition on sitting at the Westminster parliament.

But once breached then arguably the principle became obsolete for all parliaments.

That was the response of the IRA old guard, in Ireland and in the United States. In Ireland, Sinn Fein split and at the ard-fheis held in Dublin in November 1986, Ruari O Bradaigh led a walkout of dissidents to set up Republican Sinn Fein and later, more secretly, the Continuity IRA. It was a repeat of the 1969 IRA split but this time the rebels would remain the minority.

In America, it took more than a year for the split to materialise when, led by Noraid founders like Michael Flannery, US republicans established the Irish Freedom Committee or Cumann na Saoirse.

The move was full of irony. When Gerry Adams, Ivor Bell and Martin McGuinness overthrew O Bradaigh and his allies in the late 1970’s, Flannery and his comrades threw their hats into the rebels’ ring, believing that the young militants were more trustworthy. Now they reached in to take their hats back.

From the FBI reports for 1987 and the early months of 1988 which I have covered in this and the previous post it appears that there was an increase in both the volume and quality of information coming to the US authorities in the wake of November 1986.

Was this a coincidence, or were some American supporters of Noraid giving expression to their disillusionment and anger, and at the same time making a few bucks on the side, by whispering into FBI ears? Or was one side in the approaching US split out to undermine the other?

Take for example this FBI report of August 31st, 1987, carried on pages 9 and 10. The source is described as being of ‘untested reliability’. That suggests he or she is a newcomer to such activity and what the new source had to tell the FBI at their meeting on August 8th that year points to a possible motive:

Asset advised that Noraid is in a state of confusion in the US at the current time. Asset advised that there is no clear leader of the organisation in the US and many of the individuals who are in leadership positions are no longer respected in Ireland. Asset advised that [name redacted] (NYFile 199F – 1999) no longer commands the respect which he has gotten in the past. This could be as a result of the fact that his main contact, JOE CAHILL, has lost his status and power in Ireland.

Divisions spawn rivalries and not a little dissembling (whatever Joe Cahill was telling people in Noraid, the truth was that he had supported the Adams’ leadership at the 1986 IRA Convention) and together they made fertile ground for the FBI.

Two weeks later came more evidence that the FBI had deeply infiltrated Noraid’s ranks, at least in New York, arguably the most important centre of the group’s activity.

On August 24th, 1987 the New York FBI office sends Washington a ten page report on the state of Noraid which is based on intelligence from sources identified only as NY T-1 through to NY T-8. From later entries in the report it appears that this may refer to three rather than eight sources. But that is not clear.

What the ‘T’ stands for is also unclear. A similar source in Detroit, known as DE-T1 is clearly a human source [see this post], but ‘T’ in this New York reference conceivably could stand for Technical, suggesting the intelligence was obtained via a telephone tap or a bug. If so, then the Noraid people involved had become very loose-lipped. All that the FBI report says about sources is this:

NY-T1 through NY-T3 is [redacted];

NY-T4 is [redacted];

NY-T5 through NY-T8 is [redacted]

And this, in one of the few unredacted pages in the report to survive the FBI censor, is what these sources told the FBI about morale inside Noraid:

In addition to the above detailed contacts many of the unknown sources listed above have reported that there is a recent rift in the national noraid leadership. Information has been received that the current true leadership in PSF in Dublin, ROI consists of younger PSF/PIRA members. These individuals are attempting to obtain total control of Noraid in the United States with younger Noraid members and PIRA supporters. Many of the current national US Noraid leadership that have been with the organization since its inception are extremely disenchanted with the current policies of PSF in regards to Noraid support. [Next two lines redacted] [Redacted name]….continues to be involved in Noraid activities, however, has expressed extreme dissatisfaction with PSF. Other longstanding Noraid leaders such [redaction] and Chicago leader Alex Murphy, are also disenchanted with PSF support of Noraid. Sources have reported that the PSF leadership are attempting to establish younger Noraid members and PIRA supporters in positions of leadership with the US Noraid organization. Ostensibly the purpose in this reorganization attempt is to facilitate a more vigorous stance, bothe publicly and financially, for PSF by Noraid.

On September 16th 1987, the FBI met with another ‘developing’ source in New York who proceeded to provide the agency with intelligence on people he or she believed to be in or close to Noraid, who were staunch supporters or contributors to Noraid or who gave jobs to illegal Irish. These included someone from Brooklyn suspected of being a money courier.

Much of this part of the report is redacted but it nonetheless clear that the source provided the FBI with a lot of information on Noraid supporters and members.

On September 28th, a Chicago Noraid source, ‘who has furnished relaible information in the past’, passed on the details of a visitor from Ireland who is scheduled to appear at a hearing of some sort. Full details of who paid for the trip, who will meet this person at the airport and where he or she will staying in Chicago were passed on to the FBI.

Following the meeting with the ‘developing’ source on September 16th, the FBI contacted a long time Noraid asset ‘of believed good reliability’ to check out the alleged Brooklyn courier. The answer was in the negative.

On October 27th, 1987 the FBI report returns to the brewing dissent in Noraid over the dropping of Dail abstentionism with intelligence from an asset ‘of good reliability’ that must have heartened the agency’s operatives:

Asset advised that Noraid is in a state of disarray in the US at the present time. Apparently a high level meeting occured in Ireland which was attended by [name redacted] (NYfile 199F-1999) and [name/s redacted]. This meeting was to discuss the current situation in Noraid in the US as well  to allow [name redacted] the opportunity to indicate that he [redacted] because of “personal problem”. Asset was unable to advise what these problems consisted of…..

On November 24th, 1987, almost a year to the day after Sinn Fein met to drop Dail abstentionism, the FBI in New York contacted ‘a source of good reliability’ on ‘various PIRA matters of interest to the New York Office’:

Asset advised that [name redacted] is over from Ireland, primarily, to speak at various Noraid, and Clann na Gael functions in the Northeastern US. Asset was not aware of any information to indicate that [name redacted] came to the US in an attempt to avoid security forces in Ireland. [name redacted] arrival corresponded closely with the departure of [name/s redacted] from the US. [name redacted] was in the country to sway Noraid supporters to Provisional Sinn Fein from Republican Sinn Fein. Therefore [name redacted] coming to the US would be to speak with these same individuals and undergird their support for the Republican Sinn…..

Some of what was written was crossed out and insertions made by pen. The word ‘undergird’ was partly written over and may not be ‘undergird’, which is my best guess.

On pages 86, 89, 91, 94 and 96 the report contains reports of contacts by the FBI with Noraid sources variously described as ‘recently developed’ or ‘good reliability’. Some, clearly, may be the same source visited several times.

By March 1988 some Noraid founders, like the late Michael Flannery had broken with Noraid and set up Cumann na Saoirse.

Finally there is this entry on page 71, unredacted in the midst of several pages of censored material:

The NYO (New York Office of the FBI) notes that Structure Tone Construction Company has been reported by various NYO sources to be utilized to provide employment to illegal Irish aliens and PIRA supporters in the NY area.

Here is the FBI file:

4 responses to “Declassified FBI Files On Noraid, 1987 – ‘Noraid In A State Of Confusion….’

  1. I believe it is very flattering., particularly in hindsight, that the FBI Held NORAID in such high regard.

  2. Hello Ed, I am wondering whether you had published anything elsewhere (besides on here) about the FBI surveillance of NORAID and Irish Republicanism in the USA. I am currently researching ASIO and the surveillance of Irish Republicans in Australia in the 1970s.

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