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British believed Gerry Adams was a leader of the IRA, state papers reveal

Ambassador reveals British ‘hatred’ for the SF chief after being told he was on Army Council


Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Credit: Martin McCullough/PA

Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Credit: Martin McCullough/PA


Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Credit: Martin McCullough/PA

A senior UK Government official insisted to a diplomat from the Republic that Gerry Adams was on the IRA Army Council.

The claim is made on a document dating from October 1994, shortly after the first IRA ceasefire.

It is part of a tranche of documents made public today following the release of Irish State archives in Dublin.

Documents relating to seven years of Anglo-Irish negotiations have been released, offering a key insight into the painstaking negotiations between Dublin, London and the Belfast parties between 1991 and 1997 and leading up to the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Adams has always maintained he was never a member of the IRA, let alone a member of its leadership.

The documents reveal senior British officials believed Mr Adams was on the Army Council.

But Dublin officials also suspected there was a widespread hatred of Mr Adams within UK Government circles, to the extent that an excoriating article about him in a London-based political magazine was believed to have been “officially inspired”.

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Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK Joseph Small sent a secret briefing note to Sean O’ hUiginn at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs following a meeting with senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office official Paul Lever, who was seconded to the Cabinet Office.

The conversation took place in London and the briefing note was dated October 3, 1994.

Mr Small recounted what Mr Lever had to say about the IRA Army Council.

“According to Lever, Adams sits on this council,” he wrote.

Mr Small said that what Mr Lever had to say was “of special interest” given that Mr Lever’s involvement with the Cabinet Office meant he had access to detailed security and intelligence briefings.

“Giving the impression that he was speaking with a good deal of inside information, Lever said that a Mr Murphy was the member of the seven man IRA army council who showed most reluctance in the statement of August 31 although he did not dissent in the end.

It added that “another one or two may have had reservations although they too went along with the decision”. It continued: “There was no evidence over the last month that dissidents were peeling off from the Provisionals and forming alliances with the INLA or Republican Sinn Fein.

“As to the INLA, Lever said his authorities were not too worried about them — they had some but rather limited operational capacity and no clear political agenda.”

The note added: “Turning to Gerry Adams, it was quite clear that Lever shares the general hatred of the man so evident in British governing circles.”

State papers are released every December in Belfast, London and Dublin, shedding new light on events from years ago.

Papers in Belfast, from 1998, will be released tomorrow, while London’s archives, covering 1998, 1999 and 2000, are opened on Thursday.

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