Belfast Telegraph

You are out of the IRA once you're arrested and jailed: Gerry Kelly

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly has given an insight into the workings of the IRA, saying that in the past once you were arrested and sent to jail your were out of the terrorist organisation and that was how he left.

The former IRA man was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback over the Red Hand Commando's application to be decriminalised.

Asked by David Campbell of the Loyalist Communities Council how he formally left the IRA, the North Belfast representative said: "I was arrested and sent to jail."

He continued: "When you're arrested you are out of the IRA.

"And if you want to join the IRA again you have to reapply when you get out.

"That's the way it was and that is historical just to be clear."

He was asked how some that were serving in prison in the past could say they were still members of the IRA and indeed how there appeared to be military command structures in place in jails.

Mr Kelly said that it was a technical issue.

"They were members of the IRA who went into jail and then were political prisoners. What happened within republican wings, which may not have happened in loyalist wings was that over a period of time - because not everybody who went into jail or who was a political prisoner was a member of the IRA or INLA or organisations of the time - so they formed a community.

"These are technical things, technically only people who were leading in the prisons were seen as members of the IRA. But that was it.

"In fairnees it was a very technical thing."

Mr Kelly welcomed former members of terrorist organisations wanting to turn their backs on violence and help the community, but there was no necessity for their organisations to exist.

"Why would anyone want to go to a group called the Red Hand Commando for community advice?" he said.

"Legalising a paramilitary organisation is the wrong thing to do."

Gerry Kelly was convicted for the Old Bailey court bombing in 1973. He was found guilty of causing explosions and sentenced to two life terms after being found with 14 rifles in his possession when he was captured and arrested in London.

He was given a Royal Prerogative of Mercy as part a legal deal to secure his extradition from the Netherlands, where Mr Kelly had been arrested in Holland three years after his escape from the Maze prison in 1983.

He then spent three further years in the Maze before his release in 1989.

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