Belfast Telegraph

State papers: Republicans tried to guard hospital after Gerry Adams shot

By Adrian Rutherford

Sinn Fein members tried to take over security duties at a Belfast hospital after Gerry Adams was shot because they did not trust the RUC to protect him.

Mr Adams was seriously wounded in the loyalist gun attack in central Belfast in March 1984.

He was struck in the neck, shoulder and arm as UFF gunmen riddled his car with up to 20 bullets.

Mr Adams  was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, along with three others who had been injured in the attack, and was placed in a secure ward, protected by armed police.

Sinn Fein said it would "guard" Mr Adams itself because it did not trust the police.

The Eastern Health Board confirmed various people suspected to be members of Sinn Fein were present in the hospital.

They were not allowed into wards, and were restricted to public areas where they did not interfere with the normal running of the hospital.

When Ulster Unionist MP Martin Smyth learned of the incident, he penned an angry letter to Sir Thomas Brown, the chairman of the Eastern Health Board.

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Mr Smyth criticised the "usurping of the role of security by Sinn Fein". "I wonder whether this is the pattern staff in the Royal can continue to look forward to, that members of their own security staff and the RUC abdicate their responsibility to those who have no right to be there," he said.

After Mr Smyth contacted the Secretary of State's office, a detailed three-page reply was prepared, explaining that the RUC guarded Mr Adams throughout his stay in hospital.

There was no evidence – or complaints – that people had been harassed by the Sinn Fein members' presence.

The draft reply also warned that with tensions already running high following Mr Adams' shooting, ejecting the Sinn Fein members could exacerbate the situation while handing the party a propaganda boost.

However, Secretary of State Jim Prior told his officials there was no requirement to provide Mr Smyth with a full explanation.

One of the other victims was transferred to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald for treatment, and Sinn Fein members were also said to be providing guard duties there.

It prompted East Belfast MP Peter Robinson to telephone hospital authorities to complain. The RUC told authorities their presence was "a potent source of civil unrest in east Belfast and they should be removed".

In a later letter, a Northern Ireland Office official expressed frustration at the affair, branding it a "silly episode". In a note to Jack Scott, a Department of Health official, Paul Coulson said: "It is not an offence to be a member of Sinn Fein and nor is it an offence, as far as I am aware, to patrol up and down hospital corridors. The implications in the questions that these irritants were matters for the Secretary of State is probably the most reprehensible and deplorable aspect of the whole silly episode."

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