- Only the most naive or bovine among the Republican
grassroots could have seriously believed that when
this week Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness met members
of the Stevens team investigating allegations of collusion
in the 1988 UDA killing of Belfast lawyer, Pat Finucane,
they did so in order to say whether or not the security
authorities had ever negelected to tell them when
they had been similarly targetted, as the two men
truth is that a simple phone call or even an inquiry
via a Sinn Fein aide could have given the Scotland
Yard team the information they wanted, quicker, with
much less fuss and probably more efficiently. For
that reason, it was difficult watching the two Sinn
Fein leaders travelling to talk to the police team
and not conclude that, once again in this never-ending
mirage called the peace process, what was being played
out in front of our eyes was not what was really happening.
two mens expedition makes much greater sense
when seen as another stage in the inevitable journey
towards Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA signing
up to acceptance of, support for and membership of
the Norths new police body, the PSNI. And like
other concessions made, or u-turns executed by the
Sinn Fein leadership over the past years, Adams made
his move in crab-like style, edging sideways towards
his destination, almost unnoticed by his supporters,
and eschewing the honest, straightforward approach.
thinking behind the move is clear. It is not yet quite
time to make the great symbolic gesture of recognition
of the PSNI by meeting, shaking hands with and supping
tea and biscuits with its chief, Hugh Orde. It is
too early for that, but, with important negotiations
under way, perhaps the right time to signal to the
British and Irish governments - not to mention the
US State Department - that that day will also dawn
and before too long. And what better way to send the
message than by meeting the team once headed by Orde?
Shaking hands with Ordes successor was the next
best thing to shaking the hand of the man himself.
and the ever faithful McGuinness, approached their
goal sideways, for sure, but they also came covered
in camouflage, in this case wearing the garments of
victims of loyalist- British security force collusion,
the sort of co-operation which cost Pat Finucane his
life and which might very well have cost them their
he emerged from the meeting, Adams made great play
of the fact that although he and McGuinness were once
targetted by loyalist agents controlled by the RUC
and British military intelligence, not once were either
men warned that their lives were in danger. "I
have to say to the best of our recollection, categorically,
we were never informed except through the broad media",
he went on: "This is the first time in my recollection
we have received a specific request to meet. It follows
requests by them to meet us individually because we
were among a number of people who were being targeted
for killing by loyalists working and being handled
by elements of British military intelligence and the
RUC Special Branch. They basically wanted to ascertain
from us during defined periods were we informed by
the RUC we were being targeted, and whether we were
given advice, help or assistance to take precautions."
is either being somewhat economical with the truth
here or his recollections are indeed not the best,
for disclosures at a celebrated trial in Belfast some
ten years or so ago showed that while he may not have
been warned by the authorities that loyalists were
conspiring to kill him, it would be entirely wrong
to say that they stood idly by and did nothing.
trial was of Brian Nelson, the UDAs intelligence
chief, who stood accused of helping to murder a number
of Catholics in Belfast - Pat Finucane being the best
known - some of them with minor IRA or INLA associations.
Nelsons defence was that all the while he was
working as the UDA intelligence supremo, he was secretly
doubling as an agent for a highly covert unit of British
military intelligence called the Force Research Unit
(FRU), which gave him sanction for his actions.
head of FRU, known in court only as Colonel
J, gave evidence in Nelsons defence, principally
that thanks to Nelson and the intelligence he had
provided, the FRU had been able to save scores of
lives. Under cross-examination, Colonel J
was able to produce only one name of a saved life,
and that was the Sinn Fein president and then West
Belfast MP, Gerry Adams.
details came spilling out a few days later. In 1988,
the same year in which Finucane was gunned down by
Nelsons associates, the UDA planned to kill
Adams as he left a meeting in Belfast city centre
with an official of the Housing Executive. The UDA
had done intelligence on Adamss armoured car
and discovered it had one weak spot. The roof had
no protection. The UDA produced a limpet mine with
a magnetic clamp, planned to set its fuse at a few
seconds and intended to use a bomber on a motorbike
to set it on the roof of the car as Adamss vehicle
waited to move into the traffic flow. If all went
well, the bomb would explode almost instantly and
Adams would be dead.
UDAs plan was never executed. Nelson told his
FRU handlers all about it and a few days before Adams
was supposed to meet his maker, a joint RUC-British
Army raid netted the UDAs limpet mine and the
plan was abandoned. Adams had not been warned of all
this, for sure, but his life had nonetheless been
saved by the British authorities.
incident is interesting for two reasons. Four years
earlier, the UDA did manage to carry out an attempt
on Adamss life and as Mark Urbans excellent
account in Big Boys Rules
explains, the British also knew about it ahead of
time but allowed it to go ahead. Adams was lucky.
His car was ambushed in the city centre and riddled
with bullets. Adams was hit but survived.
years later, the British took no chances and moved
quickly and decisively to save Adamss life when
they learned the UDA planned once again to kill him.
Something had changed inbetween and a clue as to what
that something was, is contained in Ed Moloneys
account of the genesis of the peace process, A
Secret History of the IRA.
to Moloneys account, by the time the UDA hatched
its limpet mine plot in 1988, Adams had been in lengthy
conversations, via the Redemptorist priest, Fr. Alex
Reid, with the British government about getting Sinn
Fein into political talks in return for an IRA ceasefire
and Republican acceptance of the consent principle.
A document had even been supplied to Adams by the
British outlining what became the peace process and
they then had every reason to seek to preserve Adamss
life. Is this why, the FRU and their operational allies
in MI5 acted with such alacrity when they heard about
the UDAs limpet mine?
Finucane enjoyed no such consideration. All the evidence
in his death suggests that at the very least the RUC
and FRU/MI5 knew about the UDAs plan to kill
him and did nothing to stop it or, at the worst, that
they encouraged the UDA to target the lawyer.
highlights the second interesting feature of the FRUs
behaviour towards Gerry Adams and it is best expressed
in the form of a question, albeit one that may never
be asked at an official tribunal of inquiry. The question
is this: Why did the FRU allow Pat Finucane to die,
but not Gerry Adams?
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