Belfast Telegraph

Nelson McCausland: Only public inquiry can give answers about Dublin collusion with Provos

It's high time the truth was told about Fianna Fail-IRA links during the 1970 Arms Crisis, writes Nelson McCausland

Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson’s speech at the annual hunger strike commemoration in Strabane at the weekend came in for criticism from the family of one hunger striker
Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson’s speech at the annual hunger strike commemoration in Strabane at the weekend came in for criticism from the family of one hunger striker
Nelson McCausland

By Nelson McCausland

The past was in the news again this week. On Sunday, Martina Anderson, who used to be the Sinn Fein outreach officer to unionists, put on a sterling performance in Strabane at the annual hunger strike commemoration.

Her strident speech, with its IRA "battle cry", was just what the crowd wanted, although some republicans were less impressed by her dance routine.

They thought it inappropriate in the context of the hunger strikes and the family of one of the hunger strikers accused her of "dancing on their graves".

Then, on Tuesday morning, some newspapers were reporting on a west Belfast-based committee that has organised a programme of events and resources to mark the 50th anniversary of the start of the Troubles in the city.

The spokesman for the committee was Sean 'Spike' Murray, the very same Sean Murray who was jailed for 12 years for explosives offences in 1982.

Another week brings another commemoration and usually another demand for an inquiry. Irish republicans certainly do take a great interest in the past, or at least some bits of it, and those are the bits they can weave into their republican narrative. That is why their demand for public inquiries is never-ending.

It suits their narrative, because inquiries are usually about the actions of the British security forces, or into alleged collusion with loyalists. The focus is very much on the British state and there is a culture of "selective inquiry".

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Yet, in all of this, the Irish state gets away unchallenged, or at least almost unchallenged, in spite of the fact that the Irish government was involved at the very start of it all in 1969, with senior members of the Dublin government involved in the importation of arms for northern republicans.

There was an abortive Arms Trial in 1970 and there was an inquiry carried out by the public accounts committee in the Dail, but it all came to nothing.

Too many prominent people were determined to bury the truth. Even some northern politicians, who went to Dublin demanding guns, refused to co-operate with the Dail inquiry.

As a result, the truth about those seminal events has never been properly investigated. Over the years, there have been sporadic revelations, sometimes through the release of government papers, but even these have often been substantially redacted and many papers that were due for release have been held back.

The establishment in Dublin seems determined to keep as much of the story hidden away as possible.

As well as government papers, we have important statements from some of the participants. IRA member John Kelly was one of the accused in the Arms Trial and later he became a Sinn Fein MLA, before leaving the party.

He was at the heart of it all and he pointed the finger directly at Fianna Fail. He told this newspaper in 2012: "Neil Blaney (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, 1966-1970) drove that whole arms procurement mission on behalf of the Irish government."

We also know from an Irish government file released in 2006 that Jock Haughey, a brother of Charles Haughey, was sighted in London in November 1969 in the company of Martin Casey, a member of Saor Eire, an armed republican group composed of Trotskyists and ex-IRA members, and that they were there to purchase guns for use in Northern Ireland. That's why it's time for the government in Dublin to set up a full public inquiry into what happened in the Republic in 1969 and 1970.

The same level of scrutiny that has been applied to the British Government must also be demanded of the Irish government and that can only be provided by a public inquiry.

After so many other inquiries, the people of Northern Ireland have a right to know which Fianna Fail politicians and party members were involved, what arms were provided to the Provisional IRA and other republicans, what paramilitary training was provided to republicans by the Irish Army, what was the extent of the collusion between Dublin government ministers and the IRA and what was the extent of collusion between Dublin government ministers and Saor Eire?

Only such a comprehensive public inquiry can uncover the culpability of the Fianna Fail government of the day in pushing Northern Ireland into a generation of murder and mayhem.

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