Friday 21 October 2016

Provisionals also have Basque blood on their hands

Published 07/06/2015 | 02:30

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan

Whenever I am asked whether I would like to live my life over again, my automatic response is to say: yes, if I don't have to do the Inter (now Junior) and Leaving Certs.

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So much did I hate doing exams that even now I sometimes dream of doing them. Last week however, I had a daymare about doing an exam on current controversial topics

In this waking dream I was sitting a Leaving Paper (No Cert) where I was asked to say where I stood on the IBRC-Siteserv affair.

On prudent reflection, I decided to take the advice of the Kerry sage, Tommy the "Kaiser" Fitzgerald as dispensed in Tig Paud a Chaoin in Ventry.

One day at the counter of Quinn's pub, a poor devil in difficulty with the guards asked Tommy whether he should make a statement of some sort.

Tommy's advice was succinct: "Na habair faic agus na scriobh faic, mar nuair a cuireann tu an dubh ar an gheal ta tu fuckalta a bhuachaill".

For those whose Irish is rusty, this roughly translates as: "don't say anything, and don't write anything, because when you put the black on the white, you are f****d boy."

Let me turn to a safer topic, and another rough translation, this time from Spanish, of a book which deals with the hidden history of the Provisional IRA's relations with the Basque terror group, ETA.

Florencio Dominguez's La Agona de Eta is the so-far secret story of how the IRA helped ETA re-arm in 1998-9 and resume a terror campaign that resulted in the murder of socialist politicians who opposed ETA's armed struggle.

Dominguez is probably the most distinguished expert on ETA. He is chief of the Basque press agency, Vasco Press, has written five books on ETA, and in October 2014 the Spanish government put him in charge of the memorial project.

As his book, published in 2012, is only available in Spanish, Sinn Fein dodged the flak that would have followed its publication in English.

Before we examine how the Provo IRA traded its terror expertise for cash, some basics about ETA.

ETA first turned to terrorism in pursuit of Basque independence in 1968. Under pressure from both Basque moderates and the police, it finally called a ceasefire in 2012.

By then, it had killed 829 people by bombings and shootings.

But the most violent phase of ETA's campaign was the years 2001-2 in which the Provos played a major role.

On 8 March 1999, members of ETA arranged a meeting with two IRA members (who the ETA collectively called "Gorris" Basque for "the Reds") at the entrance to the museum of African art in Paris.

The meeting was to discuss a recent series of payments made by ETA to the IRA for arms and explosives. But the two Provo activists missed the meeting, claiming they'd forgotten the venue.

A second meeting was set up in an hotel. But as the five ETA members left the hotel next day they were arrested by French police who seized a cache of vital intelligence documents.

Dominguez asks; "But who are the individuals that ETA has called the 'Gorris' ('Reds' in English), that have such close relations with the ETA members and caused such concern for those who had been arrested?"

He answers his own questions from the cache captured that day. "The individual who, in 1999 used the passport of Edward Joseph Campbell, was in reality James Monaghan, whose nickname was 'Mortar' because of his skills in constructing this type of weapon."

Dominguez is adamant that Monaghan and another agent with him, code-named "Jennifer", represented the leadership of the IRA in their dealings with ETA.

"They were the most direct and highest level connection between the two terrorist organisations. It was a link of one organisation to the other, and not simply a question of the activities of some IRA veterans. "

James "Mortar" Monaghan as his nickname suggests, was reputedly one of the IRA's most brilliant bomb-makers. But he was no simple mechanic. As the title "Reds" suggests, Monaghan was also a highly ideologically motivated cadre.

Nor was "Jennifer" just another terrorist tearaway. From 1990 to 1995, she had been the IRA representative to the Cuban government. Both Monaghan and "Jennifer" were long-time links between the IRA and ETA.

Dominguez writes that the proof of their senior status was a captured letter sent "in the name of the leadership of the IRA" to the ETA some time after the Paris arrests.

According to Dominguez the letter leads off: "In the name of the leadership of the IRA we send you revolutionary greetings".

Indeed so senior were the IRA representatives that the ETA members arrested later speculated that the "Gorris" had been tracked by British rather than French intelligence and had inadvertently betrayed their Basque comrades.

The core purpose of the March meeting was money and arms. ETA had paid the IRA $800,00 and got arms to the value of $125,000 leaving ETA with a credit balance of of $675,000.

ETA, which had already received 50 Sig Sauer pistols, 13 silencers, 28 kilos of Semtex, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, decided it would use the credit to get more.

Dominguez says the captured documents revealed that the IRA had also sold two Russian-made ground-to-air missiles to ETA for a sum of $500,000.

La Agona de ETA also exposes the hypocrisy of the IRA. While pontificating about the peace process during its 1998 ceasefire in Ireland, the IRA was funding itself by training both Farc and ETA terrorists.

In sum, while preaching peace at home, the Provos were prolonging the sufferings of Spanish and Basque citizens.

Against that background, it is hard to accept Jonathan Powell's self-satisfied account of his peace-processing trip in July 2012 to the Basque country with his boon companion, Martin McGuiness.

We need not doubt Powell's sincerity. But wasn't he bothered by the double dealing of McGuinness's Provisional colleagues back in 1998? Does Powell see nothing wrong with the Provos peace-processing in Ireland while warmongering in the Basque country and Colombia?

Sinn Fein claims it played a major role in persuading ETA to pack up the armed struggle in 2012. But it's another big lie.

ETA called off its campaign for the same two reasons Provisional IRA did: mass opposition from the moderate majority plus relentless police pressure.

Justice demands that some former IRA leaders, with Basque blood on their hands, should be charged with mass murder.

* * * * *

Finally, are you fed up with all the green rhetoric coming up to 2016? Want a working-class perspective on the period 1913-1924 ?

If so, you should turn up to hear Padraig Yeates, author of the deservedly acclaimed trilogy on revolutionary Dubln, in conversation with Maurice Earls, joint editor of the Dublin Review of Books, next Sunday, June 14, at 3pm at Books Upstairs, 17 D'Olier St, Dublin 2. Tickets are €5, and they are available from Books Upstairs, tel: (01) 677-8566, or online.

Sunday Independent

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