Former Provo leader Bobby Storey had Sinn Fein members “arrested” and questioned as part of an IRA investigation into the murder of two British soldiers at Massereene.
They were taken to a shed in Co Derry and asked how much they knew about the dissident republicans involved in the attack.
Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar were gunned down outside the barracks on March 7, 2009. The attack was claimed by the Real IRA, and condemned strongly by Sinn Fein.
The then Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness branded the dissidents “traitors to the island of Ireland” as he stood beside then DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde outside Stormont Castle.
A republican source told the Belfast Telegraph: “Days after the operation the (Provisional) IRA launched an investigation into Massereene led by Bobby Storey.
“Doors were knocked and people were taken from their homes.
“There were Sinn Fein members taken to a shed in Co Derry.
“They were quizzed about Massereene, asked if they knew who was involved and the details of what had happened. They were asked if they had played any part in helping those involved.
“The IRA wanted to gather as much intelligence as possible about the operation.”
Storey (64), who died on Sunday after an unsuccessful lung transplant, was the IRA’s director of intelligence.
In 1998 he was tasked with making enquiries into the murder of Jean McConville because Sinn Fein was under increasing pressure — particularly in the US — over the Disappeared.
The mother-of-10 had been abducted from her west Belfast home and secretly buried by the IRA in Co Louth in 1972. Storey called at the homes of ex-IRA chief-of-staff Ivor Bell and former IRA woman Dolours Price.
Bell was found not guilty of the 1972 murder last year. Ex-IRA members have alleged that she was killed on Gerry Adams’ orders, a claim the former Sinn Fein president denies.
In 2014 Mr Adams was arrested and questioned for four days about the murder. He was released without charge. Adams was not part of the Massereene ‘investigation’.
During Bell’s trial the court heard that he viewed Storey as “a clown”. It was claimed that Bell told a Boston College interview: “What annoyed me, he sent an idiot [Storey] to my house to ask about the woman in the flats.
“I told him... my knowledge of that would be second-hand, why don’t you ask Gerry? The annoying thing is, he actually believed Gerry.” Price, who drove Mrs McConville across the border for the IRA, was also stunned that Storey had been sent to ask her what had happened. She told him that if he wanted to find out the truth, he should “go and see Gerry”.
There was erroneous speculation at the time that Storey may have been involved in her disappearance as a teenage IRA man.
But it is understood that he was arrested because of his role in the 1998 IRA investigation into her case. Despite what Bell and Price told him, he remained a close friend and crucial ally of Mr Adams.
Storey was a hugely popular figure in the Provisional movement. He is credited with helping mastermind the 2004 Northern Bank robbery, the 2002 Castlereagh break-in, and the 1983 escape of 38 prisoners from the H-Blocks.
Former IRA prisoner and long-term Sinn Fein critic Anthony McIntyre said: “We had many run-ins in jail over policy — I didn’t trust the leadership, and Bobby stood 100% with them — but I liked him. He was hard not to like.
“There was nothing complex about Bobby. He was a one-dimensional figure. He was a great tactician and administrator.
“He carried authority because of his reputation as a hands-on operator, a reputation some others didn’t have. He was in a different league to them.”
McIntyre said that when the 1983 escape started going wrong after the prisoners reached the Maze tally lodge Storey took control of the situation.
“He held it together, thought on his feet, and directed people as to what to do. I later asked him how he’d managed that. He said he had been as terrified as everybody else, but the trick lay in overcoming those feelings and getting the job done.”
Recalling their time in jail together, McIntyre said: “We would walk the yard together and swap books. We played football, too.
“He was a very witty guy. He had a dry wit. He was a nightmare to watch TV with because he had always worked out the plot and would spoil it for you.”
McIntrye added: “I remember we argued over the (1989) Tiananmen Square protests. I criticised the Chinese regime’s response and Bobby defended it. I never found him to be a bully in a personal sense, but, politically he believed that IRA authority was there to be obeyed without question.
“He shunned and smeared some prisoners with whom he disagreed. He called them ‘contras’ (the US-backed right-wing rebels in Nicaragua).”
Another prisoner who spent a year on a H-Block wing with Storey described him as an authoritarian: “He recruited young lads who had broken in the barracks as intelligence officers to spy on other prisoners. We called them the ‘secret squirrel club’. Storey was a powerful figure. You were either for him or against him. There was no middle ground.”