A new book on the notorious Boston gangster, James "Whitey" Bulger, details his meetings with the Provisional IRA in setting up the arms-smuggling deal which led to the arrest of Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris in 1984.
The book also says that Bulger's involvement with the IRA "took off" after he began working as an FBI informer and quotes one of Bulger's associates saying that C4 plastic explosive supplied to the IRA came from a corrupt FBI agent who was supposed to be one of the Irish-American gangster's handlers.
The book is written by Boston Globe journalists Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy. Cullen, former crime correspondent for the newspaper, reported on Bulger and his gang for decades and had his life threatened by both Bulger and the corrupt FBI agent, John Connolly, now serving 40 years for involvement in three of the reputed 19 murders carried out by Bulger and his gang. Bulger – the model for the gangster Frank Costello played by Jack Nicholson in the film The Departed – was arrested in California in 2011 and faces trial in June on 19 murder and other charges.
The reporters' book contains previously unpublished material about Bulger including material about how he was approached by the IRA to supply weapons even though they were aware he was heavily involved in the drugs trade. It states that before becoming an FBI "informant", Bulger had no dealings with the IRA. It says: "Up to that point, he had merely donated relatively small amounts of money to Noraid, the IRA's main support group in the US. But now that he had the FBI in his pocket, his involvement quickly intensified. It became more than giving cash, it became a hands-on thing.
"Whitey first sent a small consignment of weapons to the IRA, then prevailed upon a friendly FBI agent to acquire C4 explosives for them, according to Steve Flemmi (Bulger's associate who testified against him). Finally, in 1984, Whitey sanctioned and helped organise the biggest ever shipment of weapons from the US to the IRA.
"He considered the mission his crowning achievement, an interlude of honour in his long criminal career. It was an audacious project, but one that was doomed to failure because of that bane of Irish revolutionaries, the informer."
Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger was arrested in 2011 after living on the run for 16 years. He faces trial later this year for his alleged involvement in 19 murders. He was the leader of a gang of a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets.