By David Burke.
The IRA split in December 1969 into what became known as the Provisional and Official IRA. Sinn Féin divided along the same lines the following month.
Between 1970 and 1983 the Official IRA killed at least 54 people, probably more. They also attempted to have journalist Ed Moloney murdered by their contacts in the UDA. A plot was also hatched to kill Vincent Browne in what was to appear as an accidental death.
The chief of staff of the Official IRA (OIRA) was Cathal Goulding. One of their victims was a 17-year-old boy called Ranger Best, who was tortured and murdered in 1972 in Derry.
In February the OIRA Army Council directed an attack on the HQ of the Parachute Regiment at Aldershot, Hampshire. At the time, the Army Council consisted of Goulding, Sean Garland, Tomás Mac Giolla (later a TD), and Seamus Costello, among others. On 22 February a time bomb was conveyed to the Aldershot complex in a Ford Cortina. It weighed 280 pounds (130 kg). The driver alighted and fled the scene with the bomb detonating seconds later. The operatives who had scouted the complex cannot have missed the fact there were civilians in the vicinity. A few seconds later five kitchen staff were slaughtered: Jill Mansfield (34), mother of a boy aged 8. Her body was identified by a tattoo on her arm; Thelma Bossley (44); Margaret Grant (32); Cherie Munton (20); and Joan Lunn (39), a mother of three. Sotoo was a gardener, John Haslar (58), who died from a
fractured skull. Also, a Catholic priest, Gerry Weston (38). Nineteen others were wounded by the explosion.
1. Goulding’s secret agent of influence at the Irish Times
Goulding had a loyal ally at the Irish Times called Dick Walsh. In 1973 Walsh replaced Michael McInerney as the paper’s Political Correspondent. He rose to become the highly influential Political Editor, and Assistant Editor – Politics.
Back in 1972 Walsh wrote the eulogy for a slain Official IRA volunteer called Joe McCann.
In the 1970s and 1980s Walsh drew up reports and profiles on other journalists for Goulding and Garland.
Walsh managed to present himself as an objective reporter of facts to the readers of the Irish Times.
2. Walsh’s man-crush on Jack Lynch
Despite his secret affiliation to Goulding, Walsh developed a soft spot for Jack Lynch, the leader of Fianna Fáil, 1966-79. According to his Irish Times obituary: “It was during the 1973 general election campaign that [Walsh] struck up what was to be a long friendship with then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, whose campaign he was covering. They both had an intense interest in hurling, which Dick had played in his younger days”.
Despite the friendship, Lynch would refuse to go on record about what had happened during the Arms Crisis and the other events of his career, for Walsh.
While he was in retirement Michael Mills of the Irish Press tried to persuade Lynch to write his memoirs. Lynch refused. Lynch’s biographer, Dermot Keogh, has described how Mills then “asked him to tape extensive and comprehensive interviews with himself and Dick Walsh of the Irish Times. The idea was to put Lynch on the record. Content, if sensitive, could be embargoed for decades if the former Taoiseach so wished. Lynch preferred to keep silent, allowing history to judge him”. (p. xi)
3. Walsh and the Arms Crisis
Walsh helped the OIRA promote that Haughey was a Provisional IRA godfather, something that was a complete lie. It is implicit in any charge that Haughey helped set up the Provisional IRA that he was indirectly responsible for the carnage they caused
Having turned a blind eye to the undeniable historical fact his friends in the Official IRA had killed many people between 1970 and 1983, or alternatively perhaps feeling the carnage was justified, Walsh instead helped the OIRA promote the myth that Haughey was a Provisional IRA godfather, something that was a complete lie.
It is implicit in any charge that Haughey helped set up the Provisional IRA which he did not – that he was indirectly responsible for the carnage they caused.
The opportunity to manufacture this yarn emanated from the events of the Arms Crisis.
Geraldine Kennedy, who later became editor of the Irish Times, recalled in the book, ‘Dick Walsh Remembered’ that, “Dick’s big story as a journalist was the coverage of the Arms Crisis in 1970 and, like most of his contemporaries in the political correspondents’ room in Leinster House, he came down unambiguously on one side. He never wavered in his admiration for Jack Lynch and Des O’Malley from that time”. She added that, “Dick was a loyal friend and a fierce enemy. He hated humbug”. (p. 251.)
Walsh’s reporting on the Arms Crisis, however, started off on a shaky foot: he predicted on 6 May 1970 – the morning the crisis erupted – that “the sacking of Mr Haughey and Mr Blaney, and Mr Boland’s resignation seem this morning almost certainly to lead to a general election”. Instead, any dissension in the ranks of Fianna Fáil would be calmed during a fifty minute meeting of the parliamentary party. There would be no election
for nearly three years. Irish Times readers were getting distorted predictions about the governing party.
Jim Gibbons, the Minister for Defence, who had overseen the operation to import the weapons which sparked the Arms Crisis, performed the most reprehensible pirouette of modern Irish politics when, in May 1970, he misled the Dáil by claiming that he had “no hand, act or part” (the favoured Fianna Fáil mantra of absolution) in the operation. During a speech he made in his defence, he castigated Captain James Kelly of Irish Military Intelligence, G2, who was the main operative involved in the importation effort.
For a while, Walsh became a bit of a player in the story. After the speech by Gibbons, Walsh visited Captain Kelly’s house during which the captain dictated a statement which Walsh took down and which described Gibbons as “an unmitigated scoundrel”. That night, John Bruton, the future leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach, read Captain Kelly’s statement into the Dail record.
“This statement clearly implicates Deputy Gibbons in this affair”, he declared. [Kelly’s memoir, ‘Orders for The Captain’ p. 60]
4. The roots of the conspiracy theory that Fianna Fáil helped to set up the Provisional IRA
Whatever Walsh’s true feelings about the role of Jim Gibbons and Jack Lynch in the Arms Crisis, he ultimately fell in line with Goulding’s OIRA propaganda line, namely that the guns were intended for the Provisional IRA. The myth was then peddled by Goulding and his cronies in the 1970s with the publication of two anonymous accounts of the crisis. In a remarkable development, Goulding’s pamphlets were then republished with subtle alterations by the black propagandists of Britain’s Information Research Department (IRD) in 1971 and 1973.
It is useful to document the specific distortions of the historical narrative.
(a) Walsh claims Haughey was trying to “subvert the state”
Walsh’s Irish Times obituary also pointed out that, “The resignation of Jack Lynch as Taoiseach in December 1979 and his replacement by Charles Haughey seemed to mark a harsher, more critical line towards Fianna Fáil in Dick Walsh’s writing. There was no love lost between the new Taoiseach and the political reporter. When the latter was convalescing during one of his frequent spells in hospital, he received a visit from Mr Haughey, who got a cool reception. On another occasion, Mr Lynch was a patient at the same time as Dick Walsh and they entertained each other in their respective wards”.
Haughey would remain leader of Fianna Fáil until 1992.
In 1986, Walsh outlined his conspiracy theory about Haughey’s contribution to the creation of the Provisional IRA in a book called ‘The Party, Inside Fianna Fáil’. In it Walsh described Haughey and Neil Blaney, a former FF minister, as men who had been prepared to “seize any issue” to oust Lynch (p. 120). In other words, they were prepared to plunge Ireland into civil war just to take over Fianna Fáil.
According to Walsh, the riots of August 1969 had “provided fertile ground – and luxuriant cover – for conspiratorial politics, whether designed to hijack the party or to subvert the state, or to achieve both ambitions at once” (pp. 102-3).
In reality, Lynch had secured an overall majority in the June 1969 election for Fianna Fáil, a party that has always loved a winner. Blaney and Haughey had proven themselves two of Lynch’s most able allies in that election. Even if they had wanted to topple him, there was no prospect of a heave after his general election victory.
On the other hand, the OIRA was most definitely out to subvert the State and introduce a form of Marxist rule.
(b) An alleged plan to invade the North
Another error in Walsh’s book was that Haughey, Boland and Blaney had wanted to invade the North in 1969 (p. 96).
Walsh must surely have read Kevin Boland’s book on the crisis which made it perfectly clear that this was not what had happened. Boland had sat at the cabinet table for all of the relevant cabinet discussions. Des O’Malley, who Walsh professed to admire, confirmed that this was so in his 2016 threadbare memoirs. It is inconceivable that O’Malley failed to tell Walsh about this decades before the publication of his – O’Malley’s own book – and in plenty of time for Walsh to put the record straight in his 1986 book. Surely Walsh consulted O’Malley about the issue? The latter might yet clarify what, if anything, the pair discussed about this aspect of the crisis before publication of Walsh’s 1986 account.
(c) An alleged meeting of the IRA
Walsh falsely and crucially described a meeting of the Citizens Defence Committees (CDCs) at Baileboro in October of 1970 as an IRA convention. This was significant as Haughey had known about the meeting in advance; as had other FF ministers. The CDCs were not a front for the IRA. They included numerous people who opposed the IRA. The Secretary of the Central CDC was Paddy Devlin (a sworn opponent of the Provisional IRA and a later SDLP MP). The Chairman was Tom Conaty, a later adviser to William Whitelaw, later Deputy Prime Minister of the UK. In Derry, a leading CDC leader was Paddy Doherty, a friend of John Hume and an opponent of the IRA. The Irish Times was allowing Walsh to vilify as supporters of the Provos brave people who in fact opposed them.
Walsh alleged that at the Baileboro meeting Captain James Kelly of G2 had promised £50,000 for the purchase of arms for the IRA (p. 105). Since Goulding was chief of staff of the IRA at the time, and Walsh was his friend, the journalist should have been told this was a lie. The alternative is that Goulding misled Walsh and the journalist believed the killer.
(d) An allegedly hapless Jack Lynch
The Irish Times were content to let Walsh write in his book that it “would appear “ that Lynch had not discovered the alleged pro-IRA arms plot until April 1970 (p. 106) as if Lynch was an innocent abroad. If we are to believe Walsh, the hapless Lynch was only “finally convinced” of a plot on 21 April 1970 (pp. 110-1) when he was told about it by Peter Berry, Secretary to the Department of Justice.
In fact the Jack Lynch was a master of deception and knew about the G2 arms importation effort.
Michael Heney describes in his 2020 book on the Arms Crisis: “This sense of the trusting leader who felt let down by close colleagues also emerges in Dick Walsh’s book ‘The Party’. Walsh, normally a sceptical observer of the politics of the time, said that Lynch’s reaction when Berry came to him on 20 April was to feel “betrayed, angry and at first reluctant to believe what he had heard”.
Walsh put all cynicism aside, choosing to take Lynch exactly at his word. His book went on to develop a poignant image of an isolated, even lonely, leader of Fianna Fáil, “regarded as an outsider by an important section of the party”, a man who now “felt betrayed by those to whom he thought he was becoming more acceptable”. (p. 251)
While few in Ireland had believed a word Jim Gibbons, the former Minister for Defence, had uttered while in the witness box at the Arms Trials, Walsh managed to paint him as a credible figure, or at least pointed out that Lynch felt that this was the case. According to Walsh, Lynch had come to “accept Gibbons’s word” about not knowing about the importation operation (p. 113). In reality, Lynch knew Gibbons was a perjurer because he – Lynch – had ordered him to deny the existence of the operation in the first place. Gibbons was in fact a central figure in the importation as he was Minister for Defence to whom military intelligence, G2, reported about the progress of the efforts to import the arms that caused the eruption of the Arms Crisis.
(e) Haughey’s alleged silence on the North
In the 1986 book, Walsh quoted an unnamed party colleague of Haughey who had claimed that the latter had never “uttered a peep at all about the North – at party meetings or anywhere else” before 1969 (p. 101). An elementary fact check would have exposed this last claim as – to put it mildly – erroneous. A collection of Haughey’s “peeps” about the North can be reviewed in a book of the speeches he made before the eruption of the Troubles. They are contained in the tome Martin Mansergh assembled. It is entitled ‘The Spirit of the Nation assembled. It is entitled ‘The Spirit of the Nation’.
However, after the violence in the North had erupted in 1969, Haughey had suggested at cabinet that only Lynch should speak on the issue for the government. This was hardly the action of someone who was intent upon grabbing the Republican limelight while stabbing his leader in the back as part of a dastardly plot to plunge the State into civil war, and/or spark a war with Britain. It would also account for Haughey’s silence in public about the matter. If anything, by silencing other voices, Haughey was protecting Lynch’s position rather than undermining it. There is no mention of this in Walsh’s error-strewn book.
It is therefore clear that the Irish Times and Walsh purveyed central distortions of the background to, events of, and fallout from, the Arms Crisis.
The attempt to murder the Northern Ireland editor of the Irish Times, Ed Moloney
A detailed investigation into OIRA criminal activity in the North involving protection rackets and bank robbery was suppressed by the Irish Times while a copy of the report was passed to Goulding and Garland who then set about trying to have Moloney, the paper’s Northern Editor, murdered
Dick Walsh was not the only Goulding ally at the Irish Times.
There were others who took steps to conceal the ongoing existence of the OIRA from the paper’s readership. In 1982 the Northern editor of the newspaper, Ed Moloney, submitted a detailed investigation into OIRA criminal activity in the North involving protection rackets on building sites, bank robbery and other crimes. These facts were suppressed while a copy of the report was passed to Goulding and Garland who then set about having Moloney murdered. They did this by telling the UDA that Moloney was a member of the INLA. This was a lie. The OIRA had a strong line of communication to the UDA as they had mutual agreements about carving up the building site rackets in the North at the time.
6. Holding the ‘official’ line on Gerry Adams
In early 1987 the editor of the Irish Times, Conor Brady, considered talking to Gerry Adams as part of a series of meetings he was holding with other party leaders. He sought advice from Walsh who counselled against the initiative. This was hardly surprising as Adams was a hate figure to the Officials. After all, a decade earlier he and his colleagues in the PIRA had been locked in a murderous feud with them.
Systemic lies about the Arms Crisis seem to have delayed the peace process – which Haughey began
Brady decided not to meet Adams but changed his mind the following year and arranged a visit to Belfast where he spoke to Adams.
Meanwhile, Haughey was taking the tentative steps that began the peace process. It is now known that he hesitated, fearful that if it became known that he was opening back-channel talks between his administration and the Provos, all the old lies from the Arms Crisis were likely to resurface. His successor, Albert Reynolds, who did not carry any such baggage, was able to operate far more freely. Put simply, systemic lies about the Arms Crisis seem to have delayed the peace process – which Haughey began.
Walsh struck up a friendship with Fergus Finlay, an adviser to the leadership of the Labour Party. The relationship was in place during Labour’s participation in coalition with Fine Gael in the mid-1980s and beyond. Walsh was defensive of the Coalition and, as Brady makes clear in his memoirs, favoured them over Fianna Fáil in the 1987 general election. Walsh sought to blame the economic disaster that the Coalition presided over for four years on Haughey’s short lived nine-month 1982 government. Ironically, when Haughey had sought to curb spending via the ‘Way Forward’ programme in 1982, Goulding TDs pulled the plug on Fianna Fail.
In 1990 Walsh wrote a column urging the Workers Party and Labour to put aside their differences and work together.
In 1992 many of The Workers Party’s leading lights left it to set up a new party, the Democratic Left. There were at least two major issues: 1) ideological differences and 2) concerns about criminality. In his book on ‘The Democatic Left’, Kevin Rafter spoke to Catherine Murphy who had joined the exodus. Rafter describes it thus:
“While the ideological debate had been developing throughout the 1980s, the question of members with links to criminal activities had been a recurring theme since the 1970s and eventually pushed the divisions to a stage where even a reconstitution of the party was not going to overcome the deep internal tensions. For many of those who ultimately exited the Workers’ Party, criminality was the main motivation for the split. ‘For myself and almost everyone in our branch in Kildare the predominant issue that caused the split was criminality’, Catherine Murphy asserted”.
Catherine Murphy TD is now the co-leader of the Social Democrats. Since Walsh wrote in a positive fashion about the arrival of the Democratic Left, it is safe (and important) to say that by then he had drifted from Goulding.
The friendship with Finlay continued well into the 1990s. Indeed, Walsh once even berated Conor Brady for pointing out to Finlay – by reference to hard facts – that The Irish Times had not only been fair in its coverage of
Labour’s defeated candidate in the 1997 presidential election but had actually given her marginally more coverage than the other candidates. Brady’s exact words: “Later Dick Walsh, a good friend of Finlay’s, berated me for being so hard on him [i.e. Finlay] ‘I’m like any other animal, Dick, I replied. ‘I defend myself when I’m attacked’”. (Brady p. 142)
The Democratic Left became part of the Irish Labour Party in 1999 with two of its leaders, ex-Official Sinn Fein members, subsequently becoming its leader: Pat Rabbitte and Eamon Gilmore. Gilmore served as Tanaiste, 2011 – 2014.
7. Irish Times denigrates Haughey.
For a generation the Irish Times denigrated Haughey. By the early 1990s the Irish Times was ventilating derision for Haughey as in this column (pictured below) under the nom de plume of Drapier which accused him of fostering the belief “that the whole system is not on the level”.
Coverage after trial.
The Irish Times coverage of all things related to the importation of arms in 1969 was highly sceptical of the role and motivation of Haughey as with this piece (pictured below) from 1970 co-written by Walsh.
8. Walsh is challenged (but only once)
Walsh was once confronted in person for covertly promoting the agenda of the Workers Party. The charge was levelled by the editor of The Phoenix magazine, Paddy Prendeville, at Buswells Hotel in the aftermath of 2002 general election. Aghast at the affront, and stunned into silence, Walsh did not deny the charge.
Dick Walsh died in Dublin on 11 March 2003.
For someone who supported the Marxist policies of Cathal Goulding for so long, it is interesting to note that he spent his last years living in a 49-room castle in Kilkenny. Goulding meanwhile spent many years living on Ailesbury Road.
David Burke is author of Deception and Lies, the Hidden History of the Arms Crisis 1970.
OTHER STORIES ABOUT THE ARMS CRISIS AND RELATED EVENTS ON THIS WEBSITE:
Ducking all the hard questions. Des O’Malley has vilified an array of decent men and refuses to answer obvious questions about the Arms Crisis and the manner in which the Provisional IRA was let flourish while he was minister for justice.
Vandalising history. How the truth about Ireland’s Arms Crisis was corrupted by a gang of NI paedophiles, a dissembling Taoiseach, Private Eye magazine in London, some British Intelligence black propagandists as well as an Irish Times reporter who was an ally of the Official IRA.
Minister for Justice confirms existence of unreleased “sensitive” Garda files about Arms Crisis but fails to commit to their release after Seán Haughey TD describes Seán MacStíofáin of the IRA as mis-informer in Dáil Éireann.
Government must release Des O’Malley, the former Minister for Justice, from the shackles of official State-imposed secrecy – for the sake of history. UPDATE: O’MALLEY IS GOING TO TALK TO THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT.