Former IRA member reveals ministers’ role in arms plot

AN IRA member has broken his silence to confirm that Irish government ministers organised the delivery of large amounts of weaponry to republicans at the outbreak of the Troubles.

Former leading Official IRA member Bobby McKnight, 71, breaks his 40-year silence in a new book on the organisation published today.

Belfast man McKnight, who in 1969 was a member of the IRA command staff, states that along with another man he drove to Dublin Airport in September 1969. There he met then minister for finance Charles Haughey’s brother, Jock, and took delivery of several cases of weaponry, which filled his pickup truck, these were then transported to IRA members in Dublin.

In The Lost Revolution – The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party, written by Irish Examiner journalist Scott Millar and historian Brian Hanley, McKnight confirms his role in the arms plot which resulted in the major political crisis of the 1970 Arms Trial.

He is the first persondirectly involved in the transportation of arms shipments organised by government ministers to the IRA to confirm the existence of the plot.

McKnight confirms there were contacts between the IRA and Fianna Fáil representatives even prior to the outbreak of widescale violence in Northern Ireland in August 1969.

The book also reveals the extent of government fears about a resurgent IRA south of the border and plans to split the organisation along left/right lines, a strategy which aided the creation of the Provisional IRA.

A Department of Justice cabinet memo, dated March 18, 1969, whose contents are revealed for the first time, states: “In different parts of the country units of the IRA (and Sinn Féin) are uneasy about the new left-wing policy of their leadership and about theviolent methods that are being adopted in the destruction of private property.

“Their uneasiness needs to be brought to the surface in some way with a consequent fragmentation of the organisation. It is suggested by the Department of Justice that the Government should promote an active political campaign in that regard.”

The memo indicates that Jack Lynch’s cabinet was discussing plans to split the IRA at least five months prior to the outbreak of major violence, and the death of civilians, in the North.

Within nine months the IRA had split into socialist Official and more traditional Provisional factions.

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