Veteran 'dismayed' by Adams IRA denial

(Steven McCaffery, Irish News)

A veteran republican who helped found the Provisional IRA has said
he is "bewildered and dismayed" by the way in which Sinn Féin
president Gerry Adams has denied ever being a member of the

Former Sinn Féin assembly member John Kelly last night (Sunday)
declined to say whether he believed Mr Adams had ever been in the IRA but in
a letter to the Irish News he says he is "disappointed and flabbergasted" by the
Sinn Féin leader's "need to deny the IRA".

Mr Kelly, who is on record as supporting the Good Friday Agreement,
last year announced that he would not defend his Mid Ulster assembly
seat and withdrew his membership of Sinn Féin citing "personal and
other reasons".

A senior figure who helped found the Provisional IRA in 1969/70, he
was also involved in the IRA border campaign of the 1950s and early
1960s and was imprisoned three times for IRA activity.

Mr Kelly came to prominence in the 1970 Arms Trial when, alongside
the then Irish cabinet minister Charles Haughey, he was accused of
involvement in a government-sponsored plan to arm northern

He has now raised concern at how Mr Adams has handled the persistent
allegations of IRA membership – a claim highlighted last week when
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he had "always assumed" that Mr Adams
had been in the IRA.

Mr Adams said he was "flabbergasted" by Mr Ahern's remarks and
repeated his denial of IRA membership.

In a letter published in the Irish News today, Mr Kelly writes: "The
significant issue here is not whether he was or was not in the IRA:
the significant issue here is why he feels the need to deny with
vehemence the question of IRA membership.

"I ask myself the question: is it now within Sinn Féin politically
and socially fashionable to disassociate themselves from physical
force republicanism?

"As a republican who, along with countless other republicans, was
charged with IRA membership (a charge which I did not deny),
convicted and sentenced for IRA membership, I am bewildered,
dismayed, disappointed and flabbergasted by Gerry Adams's need to
deny (disown?) the IRA."

Ending with an apparent reference to a magazine interview in which
Mr Adams spoke of his spirituality and said that he hugged trees, Mr
Kelly writes: "Maybe if I go out and hug a few trees... I'll begin
to catch myself on."

Asked whether he thought Mr Adams had ever been in the IRA, Mr Kelly
last night said: "It is not for me to make that judgment call. I
would prefer history would make that judgment call."

March 2, 2004

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