Author Archives: The Broken Elbow

The Official IRA and Workers Party In The Wake Of The De Rossa Split

I received the piece below as a comment on an article I wrote on the recent split in what remains of the Workers Party and Official IRA. ‘Helmut Oberlander’ is the undoubtedly fictitious byline that came with the article but knowing a little about the organization involved, I cannot blame the author for seeking refuge in such a deep blanket of obscurity. That aside, I think what ‘Helmut’ has to say about his former comrades at the time that Prionsias de Rossa led most of the WP’s TD’s into the new Democratic Left party, carries the ring of truth and authenticity as well as fascinating revelation. And so dear reader I recommend it to you. Enjoy:

Helmut Oberlander

The latest split in the so called workers party comes as no surprise. In the early nineties the democratic left taking all their TDs in the Irish Republic. When it came to the big vote in Dun laoghaire, bus loads of supporters of the WP and OIRA members were given stamped, up to date party cards and were told to vote against any proposals put forward by De Rossa and his ‘gang’. Gang was the term used by the anti De Rossa group by the northern leadership and what was left of the official IRA. Following that in the late nineties, another crack developed in the now failing WP. For those who do not know, the vast majority of WP members in Belfast and Newry were official IRA members and most were ex prisoners and seasoned veterans of the robbery squad and the hit squads. Ironically the hit squads (group B) were never used defend the Catholic, nationalist and republican community, the people who they were supposed to protect. They were used by the leadership to protect the senior members and the businesses that they controlled. While loyalist gunmen murdered all around them, the only people that retaliation would be used against was the PIRA. But when the businesses started, no response would follow any attacks on ordinary members and supporters were attacked. The pubs, clubs, the building construction company and the property deals took first place over everything else. To get back to the point, rank and file members tried to discuss the problems of the downward slide of the party and the movement. This was met with threats of violence including murder and kneecapping to anyone who disagreed with the ‘leadership’. I use the term leadership very lightly as they controlled the party and group B like the Stalinist animals that they ARE! Just to remind anyone who can’t remember what the split was about, the now Official republican movement wanted to discuss three points, Number 1, no democracy in the movement, Number 2, No accountability for any money that was going through the movement (party) and Number 3, the movement had lost its way politically, they had too many friends in police stations, very comfortable relationships with loyalist paramilitaries, especially when it came to building construction contracts, building site security and God only knows what else. As for being republicans, that was a total farce, republicans were now forced to be socialists, communism was the way forward and even though the once mighty USSR had fallen, member were now told to admire the perfect example of socialism, the D.P.R.K= North Korea, funny, they don’t talk about that place much now. No more $100 Dollar bills. Now there’s another chapter 😂. Thankfully the armed wing of the workers party did not go ahead with the threats against the O.R.M but they are still there, to the best of my knowledge the last person to be shot by them in 2019 was a member of group B, he was clipped for selling their guns and told to leave the country. So without giving it all away, I think that it is a case of watch this space and see what happens 💥🤣. Seamus the shit 💩 has a lot to answer for. As for me, for anyone who would like to question my credentials, I’m a veteran, a grandfather, nothing to prove to anyone, been there, T Shirt and the rest. People before profit, remember that one

‘Kamala Harris Is A Cop’

Democrats live up to expectations: Biden & Harris. Just like Obama and Biden except the other way round but possibly worse. Reason magazine takes a caustic look at the former California Attorney-General. You can read it here.

Putting John Hume’s Peace Process Role Into Perspective

John Hume, who has died aged 83, did more than any other person to shepherd Northern Ireland to peace and reconciliation, a feat that earned him global acclaim, including a Nobel prize” – The Guardian, Aug 3rd, 2020

“Mr Hume, who spearheaded the finally successful efforts to end the violence of the Troubles and who is viewed as the architect of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, was in a nursing home and had been ill for a long time” – The Irish Times, Aug 3rd, 2020

“Mr. Hume’s most dramatic initiative played out in the late 1980s and mid-’90s, when he held secret peace talks with Mr. Adams at a modest rowhouse in the city of Derry, which those seeking to retain close ties to Britain refer to as Londonderry” – The New York Times, Aug 3rd, 2020

 

So, was John Hume really the spearhead and architect of the peace process, the politician/activist who did more than anyone else to bring the Troubles to an end? Or has the media, swayed by the emotion of the moment, gone overboard in their assessment of a contribution that was vital in its way but no more or less worthy of acknowledgement than the contributions of many of the host of players in a drama that played out over two decades?

The theatrics that would propel the Troubles in Northern Ireland to an extraordinary and, at the time, unthinkable conclusion began at the end of what was already an historic week. On Wednesday, October 20th, 1982 NI’s voters had gone to the polls to elect the members of a new experimental Assembly which the recently appointed British Secretary of State, Jim Prior hoped might evolve into a parliament which would see Unionists and Nationalists share power and by so doing create the basis of a longer lasting peace.

The election would produce a bombshell result which shocked political opinion on both islands, but especially in the Republic of Ireland. Virtually the entire British and Irish media and political establishment accepted the conventional wisdom that the Provisionals were an unrepresentative minority, rejected by most Catholic voters who gave their support instead to the SDLP, the party led since 1979 by John Hume. And so, Sinn Fein’s trouncing at the polls that October was the bookie’s, and the Irish political establishment’s, favoured and expected outcome.

That was always a questionable assumption which ignored the reality that by this point the IRA had been fighting a war for the best part of a decade and to do so must have had significant popular support in Nationalist areas.

But the IRA had also just gone through a lengthy prison hunger strike, during which ten prisoners, most of them in the IRA, had died and during which support for the organisation had surged.

The hunger strikers’ leader Bobby Sands had been elected to the House of Commons, and after his death his election agent then replaced him as MP. Sands’ funeral, from his home in west Belfast, attracted one of the largest crowds ever seen in recent Irish history.

Election victories later in the summer of 1981 by some of Sands’ colleagues in the Republic’s general election provided more compelling evidence that, like it or not, the IRA had a significant popular political base.

Nonetheless political and media orthodoxy was still stuck in an earlier time zone. So it was that when Sinn Fein won five seats in the Assembly poll and came close to taking two more in that October’s Assembly election, winning a total of ten per cent of the vote, the political establishment in Ireland reeled in shock.

But the deeper significance of this result evaded most observers: republicans now had a political alternative to the IRA’s violence while the result injected a new tension between the two wings of the republican movement: IRA violence could erode or hamper the growth of Sinn Fein’s electoral support, and vice-versa – but neither could prosper at the same time. This new tension within the Provisionals, more than the efforts of any one individual, would determine the direction and pace of the peace process in the ensuing years.

It would be difficult to contrive a more dramatic example of this scenario being played out than the events of the Friday morning following that dramatic election result. Early that morning, 54-year-old Tommy Cochrane, a Protestant and Orangeman from Markethill in Co. Armagh was making his way to work at a linen mill in the village of Glennane by motorcycle when a pursuing car knocked him into a ditcCochrane, who was also a sergeant in the Ulster Defence Regiment, a part time British militia widely suspected of links to the Loyalist paramilitary underworld, was bundled into the car which then sped off in the direction of South Armagh, an IRA redoubt known popularly as ‘Bandit Country’.

As people imagined the terrors and torture that Cochrane was enduring or soon would, Northern Irish Catholics knew there would be Loyalist reprisals. And there were. The first to be killed was 48-year old Joseph Donegan, an unemployed Catholic carpenter from Ballymurphy in West Belfast who was kidnapped, tortured and then killed by a notorious Loyalist gang based in the Shankill Road led by Lennie Murphy, a killer who had terrorised Belfast’s Catholic community for years. Thirty-two people, Catholics, Protestants, IRA members, policemen and soldiers, would die in the post-election paroxysm of violence before the year ended,

Fr, Alec Reid knew that something like Joe Donegan’s death would follow Tommy Cochrane’s violent abduction and that added urgency to his mission. A Redemptorist priest from County Tipperary, who had been based in the Order’s monastery in the Clonard district of the Falls Road throughout most of the Troubles, Reid had a long history of conciliation work, intervening to end violent feuds between the rival factions of the IRA and attempting to negotiate an end to the IRA prison protest to achieve political status.

When Tommy Cochrane’s kidnapping became known, Fr Reid hurried to Gerry Adams’ home off the Glen Road on the Upper Falls Road in a bid to secure the unfortunate man’s release. His intervention came too late but his visit began a conversation with the Sinn Fein and IRA leader that would produce what later would be recognised as the peace process, a political alternative to the IRA’s violence.

It would be many years before the effort bore fruit but the seeds were planted when the IRA knocked Tommy Cochrane off his motorbike and spirited him off to the hills of south Armagh.

Much was to happen in the subsequent years that served to strengthen Sinn Fein’s political wing. In 1983, Gerry Adams was elected as MP for West Belfast, and the accompanying message was clear: Sinn Fein could win seats elsewhere if the circumstances were right.

The following year Adams saw off a putsch orchestrated by his once close political ally, Ivor Bell who suspected that Adams was leading the IRA to a ceasefire and a significant ideological compromise. This was prompted by suggestions from Adams for a pan-Nationalist political initiative or front. Bell reasoned, correctly, that this could only happen if Sinn Fein significantly diluted its Brits Out ideology since none of the constitutional Nationalist parties would have any truck with Sinn Fein otherwise.

In 1985, the Thatcher government in London and Garret Fitzgerald’s Fine Gael-Labour coalition in Dublin crafted the Anglo-Irish Agreement, giving the Dublin authorities a consultative say in the day to day affairs of Northern Ireland in the hope that this would strengthen constitutional Nationalists in their struggle with Sinn Fein.

It did. The A-I-A was a huge boost to the SDLP since it demonstrated that constitutional politics could bring results. Sinn Fein’s fortunes began to dwindle. The party’s share of the vote had fallen in the 1984 European elections but any hope in Sinn Fein that this was due primarily to John Hume’s personal popularity rather their their own  deficiencies – or the IRA’s –  were dashed the following year when SF’s share of the vote in council elections also fell.

One bad election result can be written off as a fluke but not two in a row. It was time for a radical move.

It came in 1986, in the shape of not one but several profound changes in direction by the Sinn Fein leadership all of which, with the benefit of hindsight, edged the IRA closer to a ceasefire and, ultimately, the acceptance of what would become the Good Friday Agreement.

Firstly, Fr, Reid wrote to Charles Haughey proposing talks with the Sinn Fein leader.

Then the British government, in the shape of new NIO Secretary Tom King was approached, with Fr Reid once again the intermediary. Via the Redemptorist priest, Adams wrote to King, asking him six questions which I reproduced in my book ‘A Secret History of the IRA‘ .

These ranged from ‘What is the nature of the British government’s i?’, through to: ‘In the context of dialogue free from interference, will the British government publicly state its intention to withdraw from Ireland and give a date by which such withdrawal will be complete?’

King’s private and secret reply to Adams contained a phrase in answer to Adams’ first question, which would, when Peter Brooke, King’s successor, repeated them publicly in 1989, be the key that would unlock the door to talks with Sinn Fein and ultimately the Good Friday Agreement.

His formulation read thus: ”Britain of course has an interest in Northern Ireland which is to respond with a warm goodwill and friendship to the needs of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole…..But let me be very clear! In the second half of the twentieth century no matter what has been the position in the past the British government has no political, military, strategic or economic interest in staying in Ireland or in the exercise of authority there that could transcend respect for the wishes of the majority in Northern Ireland.”

When Peter Brooke succeeded Tom King in 1989 he made this declaration public policy.

In 1986 the IRA held its first Convention since 1969 and passed a resolution allowing IRA members to take their seats in Dail Eireann, the Dublin parliament, thus recognising the legitimacy of the Southern state for the first time in the history of the post-1921 IRA. A few weeks later, in October 1986, Sinn Fein followed suit at the party’s annual ard fheis. The way had been opened for Sinn Fein to recognise the Irish government and to participate in talks led by the authorities in Dublin.

The following year Charles Haughey’s Fianna Fail party emerged as the largest single party in that year’s February general election but fell three votes shy of a parliamentary majority. Nonetheless Haughey was able to put together a government and the moment had seemingly arrived for Fr Reid and Gerry Adams.

In May, Fr Reid wrote a lengthy letter to Haughey suggesting that if he held talks with Gerry Adams in a bid to create a pan-Nationalist policy on the Northern conflict, the outcome could be an IRA ceasefire and eventual talks to end the violence. Haughey was intrigued and instructed a key aide, Martin Mansergh to open talks with Reid. Adams contributed to the dialogue, dispatching written messages which were passed on to Haughey.

But Adams’ efforts to open a face-to-face dialogue with Haughey were rebuffed and for compelling reasons. Long accused of conniving at the creation and arming of the Provisional IRA in 1969, the disclosure that Haughey was now involved in secret talks with the IRA’s leader, no matter how well intentioned, could destroy him. And so Haughey refused.

But Haughey proposed a compromise which eventually Adams and Reid embraced. John Hume would be invited to talk to Adams and asked to report back to Haughey via Martin Mansergh. But, fearing that Hume would either gossip about the earlier contacts between Haughey and Adams or carelessly let it slip, Hume was kept in the dark about the Reid-Haughey-Adams conversations.

And so, Fr Reid wrote to Hume nn Haughey’s behalf inviting him to open talks with Adams on the basis that the Irish government approved and would act accordingly on any progress made. When Albert Reynolds succeeded Haughey as Fianna Fail leader and then as Taoiseach, the secret arrangement continued with Martin Mansergh re-employed as the go-between.

(It was a tip off from a government source in Dublin that Martin Mansergh’s continuing role in the Reynolds Taoiseach’s office was unusual enough to be worthy of deeper investigation that set this writer on the path to researching and writing what became ‘A Secret History of the IRA‘)

And so it was that John Hume believed that he had fired the starting pistol which led  Gerry Adams to accept the Good Friday Agreement, a belief which in the absence of any contrary version, most of the media were content to accept as the truth.

But it was not true. Hume knew nothing about the lengthy interaction Haughey had with Adams that had preceded his involvement. He believed he had started the dialogue with Adams and that he had persuaded the SF leaders to take the journey that became the peace process. It was a version of a story that was meat and drink to most of the media.

In 1994, Bill Clinton gave Gerry Adams a 48 hour visa to visit New York. It was clearly a seminal moment in the peace process and myself and the senior staff in The Sunday Tribune decided it was an appropriate moment to make some of this public.

For many months I had been interviewing Charles Haughey about his memories of this period. I made many trips to Kinsealy and the former Taoiseach had been generous with his time and access to some of the vital documents still in his possession. At one point he showed me his entire archive of the conversations with Adams which he had arranged in a sort of tower on the floor beside his desk. It was at least three feet high.

I rang Haughey to ask if it was okay with him if some of what we had talked about for my book was made public in the Tribune and unsurprisingly he agreed. A photographer was dispatched to Kinsealy.

We also alerted Sinn Fein about what was coming down the pike and asked for their reaction. Rita O’Hare rang back with a pithy response: ‘You’re a bastard,  Moloney’.

John Hume was disbelieving and initially angry, first at me for defying and denying what he had for so long believed had been the truth and then, I would like to think, at those who had deceived him. But who knows. He lapsed into silence at the end, seemingly digesting slowly what I had told him.

I don’t know this for sure, but I did often wonder afterwards as the myth about his role persisted that it didn’t really matter what I wrote or said or how many editions of my book were published as long as most journalists continued to hail him as the hero of the peace process – as so many of them did this week. And he did have that Nobel Peace prize to flourish in the face of the doubters.

None of what I have written here is meant to diminish the role that John Hume did play. He was central to events, although not as central as he liked to think. But if anyone set the IRA and Adams on the road to the Good Friday Agreement it was Alec Reid, Charles Haughey and Martin Mansergh – and Adams himself. But not John Hume.

Nonetheless John Hume’s gospel of dialogue, non-violence and compromise did run through the peace process like Blackpool through a stick of rock.

But John Hume was honoured when other more deserving candidates were not. I wrote at the time that ‘A Secret History…‘ was published that the Nobel Peace Prize should really have been awarded to Gerry Adams. I still believe that.

 

 

New MI6 Chief The Grandson Of Cork IRA Man

Thanks to Danny Morrison – yes, that Danny Morrison – for circulating this story on Twitter that the British government has promoted the grandson of an IRA veteran of the War of Independence from Cork to be the new head of MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service.

New Head of MI6, Richard Moore is the grandson of an IRA veteran from Cork.

According to the internet news site ‘Cork Beo‘, Richard Moore, a former spy for MI6, also known as SIS, or Secret Intelligence Service, who saw service in Malaysia, Turkey, Vietnam and Pakistan is the grandson of Jack Buckley, described as “a Cork IRA fighter who joined the group in 1916”.

This is how the BBC, which failed to note Moore’s IRA antecedent, reported the appointment. And Cork Beo’s report can be found here. The London Independent’s profile of the new ‘C’, as of the chief of MI6 is widely known, also missed the IRA link.

Danny Morrison’s Tweet is reproduced below. I don’t think too many people will take his ‘SLEEPER’ jibe too seriously except, perhaps, to comment that the organisation Danny belongs to is hardly in a position to point fingers about sleepers in the ranks.

Thanks to anon for the tipoff.

Los Angeles Cops Defend Democracy From Gravest Threat Yet

John Ware And Me

I see that the new leadership of the British Labour Party has agreed to pay hefty libel damages to BBC reporter John Ware and a group of former Labour Party workers who, in the course of a BBC-produced TV documentary, had made allegations of anti-semitism in the Corbyn-led Labour party.

As readers of this blog will be aware, John Ware and myself have crossed swords more than once, especially over the extent of official British knowledge of the activities of IRA double agent, Freddie Scappaticci.

But I was not aware how strongly he felt about me or my journalism until we found ourselves chasing the same story, to wit the Brian Nelson saga.

One day, myself, a long time journalist friend and John Ware found ourselves by chance in the company of Tommy Lyttle in the north of Belfast.

By this point Tommy had taken over leadership of the UDA from Andy Tyrie; he was the go-to source on all matters concerning Brian Nelson’s UDA history  and everyone wanted to talk to him.

People who know me well enough are aware that I contracted polio as an infant and while I have been able to overcome the disability sufficiently to lead a more or less active and normal life, there is a limit to how fast I can muddle along.

That day I found myself lagging further and further behind the other three as they accelerated along the sidewalk until eventually I gave up and made my way home. In those days I was much fitter than I am now, but even so I could not keep pace.

Some time after that I had my own meeting with Tommy Lyttle and, somewhat shamefacedly, he apologised and told me what had happened. “Ware wants you off the story”, he said.

Tommy then told me that John Ware had come to him and asked that I be excluded from the Brian Nelson story. To Tommy’s credit he refused.

‘American Protestantism’s Troubling History With Racism’

A fascinating article in the current edition of The Consortium describing how the roots of American anti-Black racism can be traced back to the Anglo-Protestantism of the so-called ‘Founding Fathers’. You can read it here.

Trump’s Niece Dishes The Dirt On Donald

You can read about it here.

Scappaticci Probe: Prosecutions Are ‘To Be Very Much The Exception’

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, who heads the investigation into IRA spycatcher Freddie Scappaticci and his dealings with British military intelligence and MI5, recently told MP’s at Westminster that he would expect prosecutions resulting from his probe ‘to be very much the exception’.

This statement, made in writing to the Northern Ireland Grand Committee on June 23rd, will be widely interpreted as meaning that British intelligence officers who oversaw Scappaticci’s spying career and may well have been party to the murders of alleged IRA informers over many years, will escape prosecution.

IRA spycatcher and British double agent, Freddie Scappaticci

The head of the so-called Kenova inquiry, as Boutcher’s probe is officially called, leaned quite heavily in his submission to the Grand Committee on the sentiment of victims’ families, that they were more interested in learning the truth behind their family members’ deaths than bringing those responsible before the courts.

This development, which Mr Boutcher also justified on the grounds that ‘significant legal and practical obstacles (exist) to bringing cases from so many years ago to the criminal courts now’, will be greeted with expressions of relief not just in the British Ministry of Defence and at MI5 headquarters but within the ranks of Sinn Fein and the IRA, who faced embarrassing and possibly damaging courtroom revelations.

Cynics will point out that such considerations did not deter the PSNI from pursuing the Boston College tapes or charging individuals with decades old offences.

Jon Boutcher, former Chief Constable of Bedfordshire and head of the Kenova inquiry

Both Sinn Fein and the IRA are well practised in controlling civilian dissent but details emerging in open court would be beyond their power to influence.

It remains to be seen but the argument used by the Kenova chief to avoid bringing British intelligence officers and others to trial, could also be used to strengthen the case for a general amnesty followed by a full recounting of the Troubles.

The full statement given to the Grand Committee can be accessed and read here, but these are the relevant extracts:

Was Bobby Storey, Adams’ Watchdog, Really Just The Provos’ Luca Brasi With Brains

I see The Irish Times has today devoted what must be the equivalent of a whole page (in the days when people read paper newspapers) to an encomium to Bobby Storey, the fixer to Gerry Adams who was buried in Milltown cemetery in West Belfast yesterday after succumbing during an unsuccessful attempt to transplant one or both of his lungs at a hospital in, all of places, England.

In a more objective and considered time, in studies of this period and of the Provisional IRA’s journey to the Good Friday Agreement, Storey would merit a few paragraphs and several footnotes. But a whole page or thereabouts in Ireland’s paper of record? I think not. But such is the journalism of the peace process.

Storey was a character whose pre-Good Friday Agreement IRA career was marked notably by failure. He was arrested during a compromised effort to spring Brian Keenan from Brixton jail and then when he beat that rap, was arrested after an almost suicidal attempt to shoot British soldiers, and spent much of next two decades in the Maze prison.

Big Bobby’s moment came when he was released from the Maze at a point which coincided with the beginnings of the IRA’s final lap to the 1994 and 1997 ceasefires and it was his job to make sure that his boss, Gerry Adams both survived the experience and emerged triumphant.

A big, burly character with a menacing manner, as Malachy O’ Doherty can bear witness, he was largely successful in that task. But he was mostly a Belfast phenomenon, where he was most effective, and he was never, at least at a time when it really mattered to journalists and British spies trying to get a fix on such things, on the Army Council.

It was his principal job to intimidate and terrify Republicans in Belfast who had some interesting and awkward questions to ask about how happily the Adams’ ceasefire strategy sat with the Provos’ founding raison d’etre.

Bobby Storey’s real job was to ensure such people knew they were being watched so that Gerry could rest more easily in his bed. In that sense he was really Adams’ Luka Brasi, albeit with more brains, which would not be difficult (as the clip below demonstrates).

Far be it for me to try to guess who the Provo sources for The Irish Times piece were, but there is an interesting clue in this sentence: “Storey and North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly were two of the masterminds in what was the biggest jailbreak in UK prison history, dubbed by republicans, The Great Escape, after the film.”

Actually no. Larry Marley was the brains behind the great escape and everyone knows that. One book has been written and a very good movie made, showing how it was the Ardoyne IRA man who conceived the plan for what became, with the escape of 38 IRA inmates, nineteen of who made a getaway, the largest escape in British penal history.

But it seems someone is intent on writing Larry Marley out of this spectacular episode And this piece is not the first time this has happened since Storey’s death. Who could be doing that, and why?

Well, here’s a possible clue.

Larry Marley, who did not take part in the escape because he was due to be released not long afterwards, was shot dead by the UVF at his home in Ardoyne in 1987 and this April one of his sons wrote that he had information that three IRA informers set up his father for assassination, presumably with the co-operation of British spooks who handled them.

One of those alleged informers, who also has a ranking position in Sinn Fein, has been outed very publicly a number of times before Marley’s son went public, but the Provo leadership has refused consistently to either take the allegation seriously or do anything about it.

That in turn has fueled suspicions that someone in the Provo hierarchy approves of this man’s double life and maybe gains an advantage from it – such as removing obstacles to, or/and opponents of the official strategy which Bobby Storey did so much to protect.

Writing Larry Marley out of the Maze prison escape by elevating Storey (and Gerry Kelly) as the real brains behind the plan, as seems to have happened in The Irish Times’ piece on Storey, can mean that in the background, at a level few journalists penetrate, Larry Marley is being badmouthed so that these sort of allegations appear more credible. Believe me this is an old Provo trick.

Big Bobby would have been very familiar with this sort of strategem. So Luca Brasi with brains might indeed be the best way to describe Gerry Adams’ late protector.