JIM CUSACK THE Unionist peer, Lord Laird, who spoke of Frank Connolly's Colombia visit in the House of Lords last June, has claimed there are up to 200 IRA moles in Government departments up to and including the Taoiseach'sDepartment.
He also claimed that there are two "very senior officials in RTE" who had "extreme republican" backgrounds.
And he identified three journalism lecturers at Griffith College Dublin as Sinn Fein members.
Both RTE and Griffith College have disagreed with Lord Laird's comments which, RTE pointed out, were made under parliamentary privilege.
Speaking in a debate on a new anti-terrorism law for Northern Ireland, Lord Laird said: "How can measures in this Bill help to expose the many IRA sleepers who are in the decision-making process in Northern Ireland? Security sources tell me that they believe that there are about 200 sleepers and/or spies in high places in the Republic, right up to the Irish Prime Minister's office."
He continued: "For decades the IRA and Sinn Fein have been infiltrating the media in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. One of the Republic's main graduate journalism courses, in Griffith College Dublin, is run by Niall Meehan, a long-serving Sinn Fein official, and by that party's general secretary, Robbie Smyth. Neither has worked on any mainstream newspaper or broadcasting station. The NUJ executive in Dublin also includes Ronan Brady, whose experience in journalism is largely limited to his time on Sinn Fein's newspaper Republican News, an organ which glorified the murderous exploits of the IRA in its 'War News' section.
"That much of the media is now infiltrated and influenced by Sinn Fein/IRA can be seen in the highly negative reaction in sections of the southern media, in particular the State broadcaster RTE, against the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, when he outed and denounced Frank Connolly - one of the Republic's most prominent journalists - as an IRA fellow traveller who, as I pointed out in your Lordships' House in June, joined one of the IRA's top bomb-makers, Padraig Wilson, on a secret trip to Colombia in June 2001 under a false passport.
"It is not a coincidence that, instead of being lauded for his actions, the Minister for Justice of the Irish Republic found himself the subject of a campaign of vilification in the Irish media. The worst example of biased coverage has been that of RTE.
"In view of the past two weeks, perhaps it is time that two very senior RTE officials explained their extreme republican backgrounds.
"Gerry Adams said recently that all British and Irish spies in the IRA/Sinn Fein must be removed. I say to Gerry Adams: what about the IRA/Sinn Fein spies in the establishment, who the Irish police, the gardai, call Gerry Adams's secret army? Will he be unveiling and removinghis people?"
In response last week, RTE issued a statement saying: "We note the comments Lord Laird made under privilege in the House of Lords.
"From the extracts we have seen we understand that Lord Laird specifically referred to two very senior RTE officials and implied that they were somehow infiltrated and influenced by Sinn Fein/IRA.
"We do not know who he is referring to nor what incidents he is using asalleged evidence.
"RTE has maintained its high quality of journalism in the issue referred to; there have been no complaints to the independent regulator (the Broadcasting Complaints Commission).
"If Lord Laird has a complaint against RTE and/orits officers there are well-documented procedures opento him."
Dermot Hegarty, Chairman of Griffith College, said: "I don't think Niall Meehan is a member of Sinn Fein. I would have to check that out. I don't think he was.
"This is an old story. The students themselves have addressed this before because they have been asked did they see any kind of political diatribe and quite the contrary. Robbie is somebody the students speak of very highly. Students don't get fed a political point of view when he is on the lecture podium."
Ronan Brady said: "I don't know what to say. He (Lord Laird) does this kind of thing from time to time."
Mr Meehan and Mr Smyth were unavailable for comment.