A Sinn Fein member of the Irish parliament is believed to have been involved in some 50 murders during the Troubles, new documents reveal.
Secret internal communications within the British Government suggest that Dessie Ellis, then a member of the IRA, was forensically linked to the deaths in Northern Ireland and the Republic.
And a second communication dealing with Mr Ellis refers to him as a “leading PIRA” member. Mr Ellis, who is now the Sinn Fein TD for Dublin North-West, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on explosives charges in the 1980s.
He declined to comment on the newly-released papers from 1982. “No, I won't be saying anything,” Mr Ellis said.
When asked if he disputed the claims, he said: “I don't want to comment on anything said by the Brits. I wouldn't be bothered.”
Mr Ellis (60) has refused to detail his position in the IRA during the Troubles except to say he was “at the highest levels”.
In a recent book about his home area, Finglas in Dublin, he said he became involved in republicanism from an early age, first in the civil rights marches and later in the “armed struggle”.
He was elected a TD in 2011 on his third attempt.
Mr Ellis is a former TV repair man who was initially arrested in Dublin in May, 1981, but jumped bail and fled to Canada from where he crossed the border to the United States.
He was arrested in Buffalo, New York, with four others in February 1982 on immigration offences.
An internal communication marked “secret” from the British embassy in Washington states: “As you know, one of those arrested has turned out on investigation to be Desmond Ellis who was arrested in Dublin in May 1981 for possession of electronic remote-controlled devices.
“We understand that Ellis is linked by forensic evidence to some 50 murders in Northern Ireland and the Republic.”
The document is one of a large tranche of files released by the National Archives Office in London from 1982.
The 1982 communication states that Mr Ellis was wanted in Dublin and, given his record, “we hoped that steps could be made to ensure that he was not simply sent back to Canada following next Tuesday's (immigration)
court hearing and escape from justice”.
It further adds that the Irish authorities want him returned to Ireland, but it would be difficult to hold him in the US in the absence of an extradition agreement.
He was later extradited to Ireland and in 1983 was convicted by the Special Criminal Court and was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in Portlaoise Prison.
And later, in 1990, he was the first person charged under the 1987 Extradition Act on an explosives charge in England.
He then went on a hunger strike that lasted 37 days in protest against his pending extradition to England. He was eventually acquitted at a trial in the Old Bailey in London.
The new revelations from the British papers come after Sinn Fein has come under intense pressure in the Dail over its links to the IRA.