IRA bomber says Adams ordered terror attacks on London targets
Dolours Price also details the Sinn Fein leader's alleged role in the abduction of victims who were later 'disappeared', write Patrick Sawer and Bob Graham
TODAY she looks like any other 61-year-old, the type you might pass in the street without noticing, should you be walking through the quiet Dublin suburb where she lives.
But the story which Dolours Price has come forward to tell has the potential to derail the process which has brought peace to Northern Ireland for the past 15 years.
She claims that Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein who helped bring about the IRA's ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement, has not always been a man of peace.
In fact, Price, a convicted IRA bomber, accuses the Louth TD of not only approving the bombing of targets in Britain -- including London's Old Bailey -- but of personally ordering the abduction of several people whom the IRA considered to be traitors. It is an extraordinary charge sheet and one which has a deep personal motive behind it. She feels that Adams has "betrayed" the republican cause by being involved in the peace process and that he has betrayed her and other IRA members by denying that he was one of their number.
It would be easy, therefore, to say that these are the words of an embittered woman, out for revenge -- and indeed, that may be true.
But these are claims which she says are contained in recordings which the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has gone to extraordinary lengths to obtain, invoking a legal 'mutual aid' agreement with the American government in order to obtain the contents of recorded testimony that she -- and other former terrorists -- gave to researchers working for Boston College in the US.
The college made the recordings with an offer that their contents would be kept secret until the death of the people -- all 28 former terrorists from the IRA and its loyalist equivalent, the Ulster Volunteer Force -- to whom they spoke, so that they could speak as freely as possible.
The belief was that the offer would guarantee candour. But it also attracted the interest of the PSNI when a book based on the recordings of two dead terrorists was published by Ed Moloney, the documentary maker who led the research.
In the book, Voices From The Grave, he published the testimony of Brendan Hughes, a former IRA commander in Belfast, who spoke of the 'Disappeared', the group of people killed by the IRA and buried in secret graves. He said that Jean McConville, the most high-profile of the victims, was killed by an IRA squad called "the unknowns" and added: "Gerry had control over this particular squad."
It was an allegation which prompted a renewal of energy for the police, who decided they needed to access the rest of the tapes, so prompting a lengthy legal action.
However, Dolours Price has now agreed to be interviewed about her knowledge of "the Disappeared". The British Sunday Telegraph today publishes what she said.
Mr Adams has denied Price's claims, saying: "I reject again, as I have consistently rejected, the allegations contained in the interview."
A spokesman for Sinn Fein said yesterday that Gerry Adams has "consistently denied that he was in the IRA" and that this was still the case.
"Dolours Price is not very friendly towards Sinn Fein these days; she is an anti-peace process republican," he added.
When details of the charges made against Mr Adams were put to the spokesman point by point, he responded by saying that as Mr Adams denies that he was ever a member of the IRA, then by extension he also denies each individual allegation made against him by Dolours Price.
Price's links to the IRA go back to before her birth. During the 1950s, her father, Albert, was interned by the Irish Government in the Curragh Camp, alongside Ruairi O Bradaigh, who would go on to become president of Sinn Fein and later of Republican Sinn Fein. Her aunt, Bridie Dolan, also an active republican, lost her sight and both hands after hand grenades she was handling exploded prematurely.
Price and her younger sister Marian, now 59, followed in the family tradition.
"It is not enough to say we were born to be republicans; it's more precise to say republicanism is part of our DNA," she said.
"In our family, republicanism came before Catholicism. Growing up as children, we did not have normal bedtime stories of Little Red Riding Hood or the like. My father used to sit us on his knee and tell us stories about how he had gone off to war in 1939, aged 19, to bomb the English."
It was the reintroduction of internment in 1971 which led Dolours and her younger sister to join the organisation.
At the time, she was a member of the left-wing People's Democracy, part of the campaign for civil rights for the North's catholic minority. But she approached Sean MacStiofain, one of the founders of the Provisional IRA.
MacStiofain advised her to join Cumann na mBan, the women's wing of the republican movement. Price took offence, stating that she did not want to "bandage IRA men's wounds" but wanted to become a "fighting soldier".
In a memoir of the time, which she revealed in the course of the interviews, Price wrote: "Having offered my services, I was told, 'go to Cumann na mBan.' But I wanted to fight, not make tea or roll bandages. Army or nothing; Armalite in the hand and over the yard walls with the best of them -- I'd settle for nothing less."
An IRA army council was convened and the decision was taken to allow women to become full members.
Price is said to have been the first woman to be sworn
into the organisation and she and her sister soon proved they could play a key role, taking part in bank raids to raise funds for the IRA -- including one in which they dressed as nuns.
Marian Price later boasted how she also used the fact that she was wearing a mini-skirt to talk her way through a British army checkpoint after being stopped in a car packed full of explosives.
The Price sisters, who were student teachers, rose to prominence during 1972, the single bloodiest year of the Troubles.
In January of that year, the British army shot dead 13 unarmed civil rights marchers on Bloody Sunday in Derry, sparking a flood of recruits to the Provisional IRA and a spate of bombings by the terror group.
In 1972 alone, 249 civilians were killed as a result of the conflict, along with 148 British security personnel, 70 republican paramilitaries, 11 loyalist paramilitaries and one member of the Irish security forces.
Price is adamant that the bombing campaign should target mainland Britain -- and in particular London. She claims that the plan to bomb London was hers and was explicitly approved by Adams, in what she claims was his role as "officer commanding" of the organisation's Belfast brigade.
She said: "I had long been of the opinion that fight as we could, the Brits would let us keep going so long as the death and destruction was kept at a respectable distance from mother England.
"I was convinced that a short, sharp shock, an incursion into the heart of the Empire, would be more effective than 20 car bombs in any part of the north of Ireland.
"I presented the plan to Gerry Adams and he then had to take it to the whole brigade staff -- people such as Ivor Bell. They then had to sent it up to the general headquarters staff and then to Sean MacStiofain, then the chief of staff. They had to discuss and sanction it, which they did."
She went on: "For the meeting, I sat on the arm of Adams' chair. Adams started talking and said it was a big, dangerous operation. He said, 'This could be a hanging job'.
"He said, 'If anyone doesn't want to go, they should up and leave now through the back door at 10-minute intervals.' The ones that were left were the ones that went. I was left organising it, to be the OC of the whole shebang."
First there was a botched attempt to firebomb Oxford Street, but then came the serious attack. Price's team carried four bombs from Belfast to London.
The targets were the Old Bailey, New Scotland Yard, an army recruiting office in Westminster and Whitehall -- each one chosen as a symbol of the British state.
The 300lb bomb outside the Old Bailey went off at 3pm on March 8, 1973, injuring more than 200; it went off as police were evacuating the area. One man, Frederick Milton, 60, who worked as a caretaker at Hillgate House, next to the Old Bailey, died of a heart attack. In Whitehall, 33 were injured. The other two bombs were found and defused.
Price and the rest of the terror gang were arrested before the bomb went off as they tried to board flights and ferries back to Ireland. The explosion outside Scotland Yard injured another 33.
A police officer later recalled how, at 3pm, Marian Price looked at her watch and smiled.
Dolours Price remains unapologetic about the use of violence, stating in her memoir: "There were warnings phoned in but people had stood about, curious to see. Some had even stood at office windows and been sprayed by broken glass when the car went up.
"In Belfast, everyone is well enough up on their explosives to know you always open windows to minimise the shock waves. Well, this was London and its people were only novices. In Belfast we gave 15 minute warnings, in London we'd given them an hour.
"If people ignored the warnings and stood around gawking, they were stupid. The numbers of injured came about through curiosity and stupidity."
At their trial at Winchester Castle in 1973, the Price sisters, along with Gerry Kelly -- who went on to serve as a Sinn Fein minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly's power-sharing administration -- were jailed for life for their part in the bombings.
The Prices, Kelly and fellow conspirator Hugh Feeney immediately began a hunger strike, demanding to be transferred to prisons in Northern Ireland. The hunger strike went on for 203 days, during which time they were force fed by the prison authorities. Price wanted to be a martyr.
She says: "Make no mistake about it, when I made the decision we'd be on hunger-strike, I had a vision we'd starve to death, it was that simple. I was carrying my cross for Ireland and heading for the martyr's crown.
"We were determined to resist the force-feeding. We wanted to die, wanted to be placed on the pedestal, to achieve that ultimate honour."
Roy Jenkins, the then British home secretary, described force-feeding as "a barbarous practice" and they were eventually moved to jails in Northern Ireland as part of an agreement struck between the British government and the IRA during its truce of February 1975 to January 1976.
In 1980, Dolours Price was granted the royal prerogative of mercy and the following year she was freed on humanitarian grounds, suffering from anorexia nervosa. She had served eight years of the 'minimum' 20 years of her life sentence.
Three years later, Price married Stephen Rea, the actor who was one of the voices dubbed over that of Gerry Adams during the 1980s broadcasting ban in Britain. The couple, who have two sons together, divorced in 2003.
However, she remained politically active and during the late 1990s spoke out against the Good Friday Agreement, accusing Adams and the Sinn Fein leadership of "selling out" and betraying the republican cause.
Until now, Price, who claims to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being force-fed and who has attempted suicide on a number of occasions, has said little publicly about her role in the IRA.
Between 2001 and 2006, she agreed to be interviewed on tape by Mr Moloney and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre for the Boston College's oral-history Belfast Project, on the proviso that the tapes would not be released in her lifetime.
In 2010, she offered to help the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains to find the graves of three men abducted and killed by the IRA -- Joseph Lynskey, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee -- although she has not offered to co-operate with the PSNI.
Dolours' sister Marian is currently in prison hospital in Northern Ireland after falling ill while on remand for charges relating to aiding the dissident Real IRA's campaign of violence.
Price herself remains unrepentant about her role. Asked if she is happy that what she now says may disrupt the peace process, she is blunt: her interest is in vengeance on Adams because he helped bring about the process itself.
"I don't believe in the process," she said. "I think it should be undermined, I think the process should be destroyed in some way and I think Gerry Adams should admit to his part in all of the things that happened."