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Thursday 22 March 2018

'No evidence' RUC was involved in attack on Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams at the annual Sinn Fein Wolfe Tone commemoration in Kildare at the weekend.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams at the annual Sinn Fein Wolfe Tone commemoration in Kildare at the weekend.

Michael McHugh

A NORTHERN IRELAND policing watchdog has found no evidence the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was involved in a loyalist gun attack on Gerry Adams 30 years ago.

The paramilitary Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) opened fire on a car containing the Sinn Fein president and four other men as they travelled from a Belfast court.


The driver, despite being hit twice, managed to reach hospital.


Mr Adams had claimed the security forces had prior knowledge of what happened or had been involved.


Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said: "We have talked to all the people involved in the events that day, including the perpetrators, the victims and the police.


"We have examined all the available evidence, including forensic and sensitive intelligence material, and found no evidence that police knew of the attack beforehand."


Mr Adams was shot on 14 March 1984, months after becoming president of Sinn Fein, a west Belfast MP who did not take his seat and a hate figure for loyalists angered by his failure to condemn IRA violence.


After his attempted murder, an off-duty Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier who was driving in the city centre at the time chased the loyalist gunmen's car, the ombudsman said.


As it stopped in traffic he got out of his vehicle and drew his firearm.


An off-duty policeman also arrived on the scene, then two soldiers in plain clothes.


The three gunmen were detained, convicted and given significant prison sentences.


Mr Adams complained to the ombudsman's office following articles in two newspapers which reported that members of the RUC, the predecessor of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), knew of the attack beforehand.


The ombudsman's office said the republican leader claimed he felt "something was not quite right" about the entire incident and wondered how members of the security forces "coincidentally" appeared at the scene.


The ombudsman investigated claims that a police informant, a highly placed member of the outlawed UFF, was involved in planning the attack, that a retired RUC detective said police knew of the plan a week before it happened and that the bullets used had been "doctored" to make them less lethal.


The independent investigators spoke to Mr Adams, to the soldiers who arrived on the scene, to bystanders who saw what happened, to gunmen who carried out the attack and to retired police officers.


They examined papers from the crime file compiled during the RUC investigation and sensitive intelligence material held by the force.


The detective inspector in charge of investigating the attack said he was not aware of the police or security forces having any information before the shooting but acknowledged he may not have known of all the intelligence.


One of the men convicted of the attack said he did not plan it.


The getaway driver said he suspected it was planned close to, if not on the day itself.


The third man was murdered in 2003.


The soldiers provided accounts of why they were present, supported by independent witnesses.


The off-duty police officer has died.


Investigators found nothing in intelligence material held by police to indicate that the force had any warning of the attack or that any of their informants were involved.


They established that none of three guns recovered from the scene had ever been used in previous shootings.


There was no evidence that the ammunition had been tampered with and an independent expert investigation found that they had lethal potential.


Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey said: "Northern Ireland was in a very dark place in 1984 and I remember at the time hearing of the actions of the security forces and how they had captured the UFF attempted killers.


"That demonstrated the value of law and order which the members of security forces upheld.


"It is hugely regrettable that instead of showing gratitude, or indeed any grace at all, Gerry Adams and other senior republicans questioned the fact that a number of off-duty security personnel were in the vicinity at the time of the attack.


"I would like to remind the Sinn Fein leader that in 1984 he was apologist for the actions of the IRA, which included regular shootings and bomb attacks in Belfast."


Mr Adams claimed the investigation was incomplete and called for the findings to be set aside until access is secured to British Army files and intelligence records..


The Sinn Fein leader said the conclusions were made without classified documents being opened or information on the operations of the Force Research Unit, which ran agents and informers within the UDA, being made available.


"In my opinion this report is incomplete. The ombudsman should seek access to British Army files and other pertinent intelligence records and set aside his conclusions until this is done. I will write to him formally asking him to do this," Mr Adams said.


He thanked the ombudsman for his lengthy investigation.


"The length of time it took to prepare and the efforts its staff made to access all information and speak to potential witnesses emphasises the difficulties inherent in investigating actions that took place 30 years ago and where not all relevant British intelligence information is available," he said.

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