By Sean Brennan
The purpose of this article is to examine Des O’ Malley’s Role in the events which are commonly known as The Arms Crisis and The Arms Trials 1970.
The Arms Crisis erupted during the early hours of 6 May 1970, when a press release issued by the Government Information Service announced that the Taoiseach Jack Lynch had sacked his two most powerful Ministers, Neil Blaney and Charles Haughey, the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Finance respectively. The Minister for Local Government, Kevin Boland had also resigned in protest at the manner in which his colleagues, Blaney and Haughey had been dismissed from Government. I should state at the outset that I am the son of Paudge Brennan, Fianna Fáil TD for Wicklow for 25 years, who resigned his position as a junior Minister reporting to Boland in sympathy with these other resignations.
The reason for the sackings was allegations that Blaney and Haughey had been involved in a conspiracy, carried out behind the Taoiseach’s back and without his knowledge, to illegally import guns and ammunition. It was also rumoured that the guns were for the IRA. There were also imputations that the purpose of arming the IRA was to abolish partition, by force. The IRA hardly existed at this stage and was mocked by Northern nationalists with the taunt “IRA equals I Ran Away”. It was further suggested that Blaney and Haughey were involved in some sort of coup d’etat, whereby it was their intention to overthrow Jack Lynch as Taoiseach.
I will prove in this article that this, conventional, narrative of the Arms Crisis was a deliberately fabricated lie. This lie was concocted by Jack Lynch in order to protect his own position. It turns out that Lynch was an inveterate liar. In fact, the author Michael Heney has shown that Jack Lynch lied on more than 30 occasions in matters pertaining to the Arms Crisis and Arms Trials. Lynch was aided and abetted in his lies and deceit by his Ministerial colleague Jim Gibbons who perjured himself while giving evidence at the Arms Trials.
It has been commented on by colleagues and friends of Gibbons that he was never the same man again after giving the perjured evidence that he gave at the Arms Trials. Some friends even went as far as saying that Gibbons was a broken man after the arms trials. Gibbons was a practising catholic and it would appear that he suffered severe bouts of guilt and remorse for his dishonest actions during the arms trial. Lynch on the other hand continued to perpetuate the lie about the arms crisis and appeared to be quite comfortable in doing so.
However, all may not have been as it seemed. Maybe Lynch was not as comfortable with this big lie as it appears.
To be fair to Jim Gibbons, while his behaviour in perjuring himself at the two trials can never be excused nor forgiven, he too may have been a victim of Lynch’s deceit.
It might appear that Lynch was protecting Gibbons when he did not sack him together with Blaney and Haughey on 6 May 1970. But this was not the case. Lynch was protecting himself.
Lynch could not sack Gibbons as this would risk Gibbons declaring Lynch’s knowledge of the approved arms plan and Lynch’s position would be exposed. By ‘protecting Gibbons’, Lynch was effectively setting Gibbons up and manipulating him into a position where he would be ‘pressurised’ into perjuring himself while being cross-examined by the top lawyers in the country a total of eight times.
This must have been humiliating for Jim Gibbons and would have had a devastating impact on him emotionally and psychologically. When Gibbons was promoted to Agriculture and not sacked on 6 May 1970 nobody told him that he would have to perjure himself. If he had known that that was going to be the price of holding on to his position in Cabinet he might very well have taken a different position and the course of Irish history would have been a lot different.
Gibbons did Jack’s dirty work, paid the price for doing that and Jack kept his hands clean. Jack always kept his hands clean.
Lynch was also aided and abetted in the continuation of his lies and deceit by the media and lazy journalism. The only journalist who contested Lynch’s dishonest narrative was Vincent Browne, who wrote about the Arms Crisis and Arms Trials in Magill Magazine in 1980 using as his source the diaries of Peter Berry, the former Secretary of the Department of Justice, who was a key player in the events.
Browne found it impossible to get an Irish printer to print these editions of Magill as printers were fearful of crossing the government and the consequences that this might have for their business and future printing contracts. So these issues of the magazine had to be printed in the UK. It has been suggested that the reason for the media acting in concert with Lynch’s lies is that the media, particularly RTE and the Irish Times had been infiltrated by Official/IRA, Official Sinn Féin and Workers Party members such as Dick Walsh, who reviled FF and in particular Charles Haughey.
Last Year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Arms Crisis/Trials. Such Anniversaries normally involve acknowledging the relevant events or occasions, celebrating them and then moving on.
However, the fiftieth anniversary of the Arms Crisis was different to the extent that it marked a complete change and correction of the false received narrative of the events that had been promulgated for the previous fifty years.
This revision was as a direct result of two brilliantly researched books on the Arms Crisis written by two experts on the subject. The books, ‘The Arms Crisis of 1970 – The Plot That Never Was’ and ‘Deception and Lies – The Hidden History of The Arm Crisis 1970’ written by Michael Heney and David Burke respectively are based on evidence from official documents that were previously hidden from the public eye but which surfaced in 2001 under the 30- year rule.
The significance of these crucial official state documents is that some of them were hidden or withheld from the actual Arms Trial by the State prosecutor, the Attorney General, Colm Condon; and some were doctored and forged by the State before being compiled into the Book of Evidence or made available to the trials.
In an article published in the Sunday Independent on 27 September 2020 in relation to the Arms Crisis and Arms Trial, Des O’ Malley was quoted as saying “As the Last Man Alive Who was Centrally Involved, I feel Duty Bound to Set the Matter Straight”.
Des O’ Malley’s statement above can be divided into three parts as follows:
- The Last Man Alive
- Centrally Involved
- Setting the Matter Straight
Part I: The Last Man Alive
Des O’ Malley’s assertion that he is the last remaining participant or in his own words the “last man alive” is correct and incontrovertible. So I do not need to expand on this assertion.
Part II: Central Involvement
Des O’ Malley’s assertion that he was “centrally involved” in the Arms Crisis and Arms Trials may or may not be entirely true, depending on the exact time period that one examines. For the purpose of discussing O’ Malley’s involvement, it is necessary to look at two distinct timelines for the Arms Crisis and Arms Trials.
The first timeline covers the period from 13 August 1969 to 4 May 1970. 13 August 1969 was the date of the first Cabinet crisis meeting which dealt with the very serious outbreaks of violence in Northern Ireland and marked the Irish Government’s active involvement in matters concerning Northern Ireland. This also resulted in Jack Lynch appearing on RTE 1 announcing that “the Irish Government can no longer stand by and see innocent people injured and perhaps worse”. The end of the first period coincided with Micheál Ó Moráin’s resignation as Minister for Justice and Des O’ Malley’s appointment to replace Ó Moráin.
The second period runs from 4 May 1970 to 23 October 1970 when all of the defendants in the Arms Trial were acquitted and cleared of all charges by a unanimous verdict of a twelve-man jury of their peers.
(a) Period from 13 August 1969 to 4 May 1970
O’ Malley was re-elected to the Dáil in the General Election of 1969. In July 1969, after the new FF Government was formed Des was appointed a Parliamentary Secretary by the Taoiseach Jack Lynch. Not only did Lynch appoint O’ Malley a Parliamentary Secretary but he appointed him as his own Parliamentary Secretary. As Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach, Des was also the Chief Whip of the Party. He also held the post of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Mr Jim Gibbons. While neither of these two posts were hugely important or influential in their own right, they could have served as strategic positions from which to observe the Northern situation and the Irish governments involvement and interaction with events happening north of the border.
Des O’ Malley was first elected a TD in the Limerick East By-Election which was caused by the death of his uncle, Donogh O’ Malley. Donogh, who was an engineer by profession, was a brilliant Minister who was very creative and was very much concerned for the wellbeing of the less well off in society. He introduced Free Secondary Education to Ireland and this was a landmark decision which ensured that Ireland became a very dynamic economy with a highly educated work force. While Des was the Fianna Fáil candidate in the By-Election he was not a good candidate and was very unpopular with the Fianna Fáil organisation. The Directors of Election for Fianna Fail were Paudge Brennan and Neil Blaney. Both Paudge and Neil worked night and day to have Des elected. Brennan and Blaney’s endeavours succeeded in electing O’ Malley on the third Count.
Paudge Brennan said that while Des was a disaster and most unlikeable candidate, his wife Pat more than made up for Des’s deficiencies. Pat was brilliant on the canvass and at the doorstep and was also in part responsible for Des being elected despite himself.
As Chief Whip Des O’ Malley was entitled to attend but not vote at Cabinet. He mentions in his article that he was a member of the government. This is not strictly true as, by virtue of being Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, I would not regard Des as being a “Member” of the Government until he was appointed to the position of Minister for Justice on 4 May 1970.
Des, in the Sunday Independent article, said that he “was present in the Cabinet at all relevant times in 1969 and 1970”. Based on O’ Malley’s apparent knowledge or, should I say, lack of knowledge of important discussions at Cabinet in February 1970 it may not be the case that he was present in the Cabinet at all “relevant times” in 1969 and 1970. For example was O’ Malley present in the Cabinet when it was decided that the Minister for Defence was “instructed to direct the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces on 6th February 1970, to prepare the Army for incursions into Northern Ireland”?
This directive from Gibbons to the Chief of Staff is referred to as either the Army Directive 6th February 1970 or the Government Directive 6th February 1970.
Was O’Malley present in the Cabinet during discussions which led to the Minister for Defence issuing what is referred to as the “Addendum to the Government Army Directive” stating that “the Taoiseach and other Ministers have met delegations from the North. At these meetings urgent demands were made for respirators, weapons and ammunition, the provision of which the Government agreed. Accordingly truck loads of these items will be put at readiness so that they may be available in a matter of hours”.
The official documents governing these directives were withheld from the Arms Trials and only became available once the files were opened under the 30-year rule. The Addendum to the Government Directive was not discovered until Angela Clifford came across it while researching for her book, ‘The Arms Conspiracy Trial Ireland, 1970’. If O’ Malley was at these Cabinet meetings he should have been clearly aware of what was being discussed by the Cabinet in terms of the Governments plans and approval to provide arms and ammunition to the defenceless Nationalists in Derry and Belfast in the event of a Doomsday scenario.
The fact that O’ Malley denies that the Taoiseach agreed to provide arms to the delegations from the North and also denies that the Cabinet had made plans to provide the Northerners with arms is incongruent with the indisputable documentary evidence set out in the Army Directive and the Addendum
The fact that O’ Malley denies that the Taoiseach agreed to provide arms to the delegations from the North and also denies that the Cabinet had made plans to provide the Northerners with arms is incongruent with the content of the official documents, the Army Directive dated 6th February 1970 and the Addendum to the Government Directive, which arose out of Cabinet meetings and discussions held in February 1970. This documentary evidence as set out in the Army Directive and the Addendum is completely indisputable.
There is also a significant number of Ministers who have confirmed that the Cabinet agreed to help the defenceless communities in Northern Ireland by whatever means were necessary, including supplying them with arms, ammunition and respirators.
Blaney, Boland, Haughey, and Brian Lenihan have all admitted their knowledge of the Government’s approval for supplying arms to defenceless Nationalist in Derry and Belfast.
It was also proven in the Arms Trials that Gibbons was aware of and actively engaged with Haughey and Blaney in the arms-importation plan.
Finally, there is also undeniable documentary evidence that Lynch had agreed to the provision of arms to the Northern Citizen Defence Committees. The Addendum dated 11th February confirms this fact. The Addendum, which was marked TOP SECRET stated “At a meeting held on 11th February 1970 CF (The Irish abbreviation for the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces) recapitulated on Minister’s directive as follows “The Taoiseach and other Ministers have met delegations from the North. At these meetings urgent demands were made for respirators, weapons and ammunition the provision of which the Government agreed. Accordingly, truck loads of these items will be put at readiness so that they may be made available in a matter of hours”.
The content of that directive is absolutely clear and confirms without a shadow of a doubt that the Taoiseach and other ministers agreed to provide the Northern delegations with respirators, weapons and ammunition.
In Des O’ Malley’s memoirs he states “there never was a Government proposal or any intention to buy arms or to supply arms to people in the North”. How can O’ Malley say this when the Addendum quoted above states clearly that the Taoiseach and other Ministers met delegations from the North who made urgent demands for respirators, weapons and ammunition, the provision of which the Government agreed. I therefore cannot understand how Des O’ Malley can deny the fact that the Taoiseach and other ministers agreed to provide arms to delegations from the North when this is exactly what the Taoiseach and Ministers agreed to do and this decision is recorded in an official document which was marked TOP SECRET. This secret document was hidden from the arms trials and only became public in 2006 when Angela Clifford discovered it. How can Des O’ Malley be taken seriously when he denies hugely important and significant undeniable documentary evidence relevant to the Arms Crisis and Arms Trials. Des either is unaware of the Addendum, in which case he is not qualified to discuss the Arms Crisis and Arms Trial in an intelligent way or else he knows about the Addendum but is in denial of its contents and as such is living in some kind of a parallel universe. The Addendum is mentioned in the recent books on the Arms Crisis which Des refers to in his Sunday Independent article in September 2020. Based on the fact that O’ Malley’s article is a rebuttal, albeit a very weak rebuttal of these books it would be reasonable to believe that Des has read both of these books and is therefore now aware of this vital document (The Addendum to the Government Directive) which contradicts completely and incontrovertibly the conventional untrue narrative of the Arms Trials and Arms Crisis which was concocted by Lynch.
Des O’Malley also states in his memoirs that “I know nothing about any directive being issued to the army in January 1970 that as claimed, ordered it to be ready to intervene across the border in a Doomsday situation”.
I don’t know whether O’ Malley is being disingenuous here when he says “in January 1970”. Nobody ever suggested that the Army Directive was issued in January 1970.
Everybody who is familiar with the events surrounding the Arms Crisis knows that the Army Directive was issued on 6 February 1970. So for Des to mistake the date of this very important directive is either very sloppy research, carelessness, disingenuity or just plain ignorance of the true facts surrounding the Arms Crisis.
Someone should impress upon Des that it is vitally important, when discussing historical events to respect the integrity of these historical events. I am really very surprised how someone who proclaims to have been centrally involved in the Arms Trials is not familiar with the date or maybe even the existence and content of the Army Directive and the Addendum to the Army Directive dated February 1970. For someone who appears to be so ill-informed of the important and key events surrounding the Arms Crisis to project himself to be the last surviving so-called expert on the subject is contemptuous of the history of an event which is probably one of the most significant events to have occurred in Ireland since Independence.
In order to further expand on the crucial Government Directive (Addendum) referred to above Angela Clifford, in her book, which consisted of 720 pages and was an exhaustive study of the arms crisis and arms trial, states on page 481.
“A Cabinet meeting was held on 10thFebruary, for which we have a blank Pink Slip, indicating that the contents were too sensitive to record even in cryptic manner.
It may or may not be a coincidence that the minutes of the Government Directive (Which formed the basis of the Addendum) were set down on the same day as the Cabinet held a second ultra-meeting”.
Please note for the sake of clarity, that the Army Directive was sometimes referred to as the Government Directive and the Addendum to the Army Directive was sometimes called the Addendum to the Government Directive.
As Des O’ Malley published his memoirs in 2014 it is very strange that he did not read Angela Clifford’s book on the Arms Crisis/Arms Trials which had been published eight years previously, in 2006. This book was and still is the most exhaustive study of the Arms Crisis and Arms Trials. If O’ Malley had read Clifford’s book he would have been much better informed. Des would have been made aware of the Army Directive dated 6 February 1970 and the Addendum to the Government Directive. For Des to have discovered and accepted the true version of events as outlined in Clifford’s book and to have discovered that Lynch’s story was a complete fabrication and lie might have been too much for him to handle.
As mentioned above a total of six members in the Cabinet, including the Taoiseach were definitely aware of and agreed to the plan to provide weapons and ammunition to the defenceless Nationalist in the North for self-defence purposes, in the event of a Doomsday scenario. And maybe more Ministers were also aware of this plan but deemed it convenient and political expedient to feign ignorance. All of these Ministers who were not aware of the Army Directive and the Addendum must have been absent from the Cabinet meeting held on 6 February 1970 and 10 February 1970 where these matters were discussed and decided. For all of these ministers to be absent from Cabinet on these dates would have been an impossible coincidence.
What is also significant is that Des o’ Malley’s two direct bosses, Lynch as Taoiseach and Gibbons as Minister for Defence, are proven to have known about and approved the provision of arms to the North. But because Des apparently did not know about these plans, it may very well be the case that he was being kept in the dark and really was treated very much as a Junior Minister.
We now know that at least six members of the Cabinet, if not more, were in the know in relation to the plan to provide guns to the North. Remember also the fact that the government moved the army to the border under the convenient guise of “Field Hospitals”. Most well informed people are sceptical about the “Field Hospitals “ idea and believe that the purpose of the field hospitals at the border was a cover to move the army close to the border in order to be prepared for a Doomsday situation as provided for in the Army Directive dated 6 February 1970 as discussed above.
The Government also arranged for the Dáil to approve the funding of £100,000 for the “Relief of Distress of Nationalists in Northern Ireland”. It has been disingenuously suggested, in retrospect, that this money was for food, clothes and blankets.
But the Nationalists didn’t need food, clothes or blankets as there was no need for such items. What they needed was the means of protecting themselves and their families. What greater “Distress” for Nationalist in Northern Ireland could there have been than the fear of being slaughtered and burnt out of their homes by Loyalist thugs and gunmen, as had happened in August 1969?
The most obvious way of relieving this “distress” was by supplying the beleaguered Nationalists with the means of protecting themselves and their families. This did not involve food, clothes or blankets, but rather the only means of protection which is weapons and ammunitions. When the legislation approving the funding of £100,000 was being voted through the Dáil the Bill was titled “Relief of Distress “. This title was used for diplomatic reasons as it would not have been appropriate to reveal the specific nature of the fund, part of it which was to fund the purchase of arms, ammunition and respirators. It was estimated that the arms would cost £80,000. This ties in with the fact that Albert Luykx lost £8,000 which he paid as a deposit. This represented the normal deposit of 10% used in transactions of this kind.
Remember also that the Minister for Defence, Jim Gibbons, set up arms-training camps in Fort Dunree in Donegal in September 1969, where men from Derry were trained in the use of arms. There would be no point in training these people in the use of arms if they were not going to be supplied with arms to use. The men from Derry were inducted into the FCA so that they could be legitimately trained in the use of arms. Was Des O’ Malley not aware of this training, which was only aborted when the media got news of it?
There may even have been a mention of this training in the media. It is really very strange how Des successfully avoided becoming aware of any of the relevant matters concerning the Taoiseach and Ministers agreeing to supply arms to Northerners. He also does not appear to have known about the Minister for Defence arranging to train Northerners in the use of arms in September 1969.
To be quite honest , based on the above I am beginning to wonder if Des O’ Malley actually knows anything that is relevant to the Arms Crisis and what exactly was he doing in the period between 13 August 1969 and 4 May 1970.
Des also mischievously tries to suggest that the plan was to supply arms to the IRA so that they could end partition by force. This was never the case and the suggestion that it was is irresponsible, reckless and self-serving.
He may, however, have been fooled into thinking this as a result of misinformation which was supplied to the security services by Seán Mac Stiofáin, who was a double agent -pretending to his handler in the Special Branch, detective Philip Mahon, that he was an informer.
Mac Stiofáin succeeded in fooling his handler while actually been paid by the State. The security services discovered that they were being fed lies and misinformation by Mac Stiofáin in July 1972. While O’ Malley, in his memoirs refers to a tip off from an informer which resulted in the arms being prevented from being imported he says in his Sunday Independent article that he is 99.9% sure that Mac Stiofáin was not the informer.
The fact that he is not 100% sure is interesting.
David Burke who first revealed the role that Mac Stiofáin played, is 100% sure and not 99.9% sure that Mac Stiofáin was the double agent who tipped off the security forces about the government-sanctioned plan to import the arms. O’ Malley suggested that this was untrue on the basis that the IRA would hardly tip off the security services to intercept a consignment of arms that were destined for the IRA. Of course they wouldn’t. But that only proves the untruth and ridiculous assertion by O’ Malley that the arms were for the IRA. Mac Stiofáin tipped off the security services about the arms consignment expected at Dublin airport strictly because the arms were not for the IRA.
David Burke’s sources are impeccable. Burke has told me that when he was writing his book, ‘Arms and Deception – The Hidden History of the Arms Crisis’ that he had three impeccable sources within the Garda and Special Branch who confirmed to him that Mac Stiofáin was a double agent. Burke is 100% satisfied that his sources are 100% reliable and trustworthy. When David Burke wrote the book, two of his three sources were still alive, one in his eighties and one in his late seventies. The third source had died some years before. But Burke had interviewed this source on very many occasions before he passed away. This particular source was referred to as “J” in Burke’s book. “J” had served as a very senior officer in the Garda.
It may be possible to explain Des O’ Malley’s lack of knowledge of the arms-importation plan by reference to the fact that it was the practice at the time for the Cabinet to hold unofficial meetings of the Government either directly before or else directly after the official Cabinet meetings. These are the meetings that Angela Clifford referred to above as “Ultra – private” Cabinet meetings. No civil servant attended these unofficial meetings. At these meetings the Cabinet discussed political matters and other matters which were not for the ears of civil servants.
It may be the case that Des O’ Malley, who was not a full Cabinet member until he was appointed the Minister for Justice on 4 May 1970, after the plan to import the arms had been cancelled, was not present at these meetings and it may also have been the case that it was at these meetings that all matters pertaining to Northern Ireland were discussed. So in other words Des may have been kept in the dark and not present for the Cabinet discussions concerning the arms to be provided to the Nationalists in Northern Ireland.
As mentioned above, Des O’ Malley was also appointed the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence and served in this position during the period July 1969 to 4 May 1970. It is not clear what Des O’ Malley’s role was in the Department of Defence. Was it just a token appointment that automatically came with the appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach? It appears that he may not have been kept in the loop by his Minister Jim Gibbons in terms of matters pertaining to Northern Ireland. This might explain his apparent lack of awareness of the Addendum to the Government Directive dated 11 February 1970 which stated that the Taoiseach and other Ministers met delegations from the North seeking weapons, ammunitions and respirators, the provision of which the Government agreed. The fact that this Addendum, which is a hugely significant official document, categorically states that the Taoiseach and other Ministers agreed to provide delegations from the North with weapons, ammunition and respirators, does not appear to be dealt with by Des O’Malley, might suggest that he was not aware of this crucial document and was therefore not as centrally involved as he suggested in his Sunday Independent article of 27 September 2020.
Army Directive 6 February 1970
On 6 February 1970, the Minister for Defence, Jim Gibbons made a verbal direction to the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Sean Mac Eoin, in Gibbons Office in the presence of the head of Irish Military Intelligence, Colonel Michael Hefferon. The Directive, which was known as the Army Directive or Government Directive, directed the Army to make plans for incursions into Northern Ireland and to make surplus arms available. The word “surplus” is very significant in term of the Arms Crisis as being “surplus arms“ meant that they were “surplus” to army requirements and therefore could only have been intended to be supplied to people who were not members of the army. It is clearly obvious therefore that the directive was referring to surplus arms being made available to the Nationalists in Northern Ireland. It is also important to note that there was already a significant surplus of arms available to the Defence Forces as the Army had decided to upgrade their stock of arms from the old Lee Enfield Rifle to more modern rifles. It was originally intended to auction off these surplus arms but this was abandoned when it became known that a potential buyer, an arms dealer in the UK had intended purchasing these arms for Loyalist forces in Northern Ireland.
Based on the above, the Minister for Defence Jim Gibbons was authorised by the Cabinet to issue this Directive to General Sean McEoin who was the Chief of Staff of the Irish Army, and thereby order the Chief of Staff to make surplus arms available which were to be supplied to the Nationalists in Northern Ireland to enable them to protect themselves and their families, in the event of a Doomsday situation.
It is incredible how Des O’ Malley was not aware of this document which was probably the most significant document ever to have been issued by the Department of Defence since the foundation of the State. O’ Malley should have been made aware of this document, either as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence or as an attendee at the Cabinet meetings in his role as Chief Whip. It may very well be the case that his role as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence was very much a subsidiary role and was not an active or functioning role as such. It may also be the case that he was not privy to Cabinet discussions concerning arms for the North as maybe, as Chief Whip, he was not allowed to attend the unofficial Cabinet meetings which occurred before or after the official Cabinet meetings and which were referred to as “Ultra Private” meetings, where the discussions on providing arms to the North were discussed. These meetings were so secret and so sensitive that no minutes were ever kept even in a cryptic format.
If either of the reasons mentioned in the last paragraph explains why O’ Malley was not aware of the Army Directive or the Addendum to Army Directive, then he should be straight up and admit the reasons why he may not have been privy to all the relevant Cabinet discussions concerning Northern Ireland in 1969 and 1970. His assertion in the Sunday Independent article in September 2020 that he was present in the Cabinet “at all relevant times in 1969 and 1970” would appear to be at odds with the fact that he does not appear to have been aware of the discussions in Cabinet in February 1970 concerning the Army Directive and The Addendum to the Army Directive. Both the Army Directive and the Addendum were a direct result of the February 1970 Cabinet discussions, which Des O’ Malley implies he was at by virtue of the fact that he was at the Cabinet meetings “at all relevant times in 1969 and 1970”. Both of these official documents also contradict O’ Malley when he refers to the various Ministers who apparently knew nothing about the Government’s agreement as clearly documented in the Army Directive and the Addendum to the Army Directive, to supply arms, ammunitions and respirators to the Northern delegations who requested these items. It is almost impossible to believe that all of these Ministers were absent from all of these Cabinet meetings when the matter of arms and the decision to supply arms to Northerners were discussed in February 1970. It just defies belief that this could have happened.
The fact that O’Malley even refers to the Directive being in “January 1970”, in his denial of its existence, defies belief as nobody except O’ Malley has ever referred to the possibility of an Army Directive occurring in January 1970. Anyone who has even a “vestigial knowledge” as Minister Gibbons liked to say, of the events surrounding the Arms Crisis would know that the Army Directive was issued in February 1970.
Des O’Malley does not appear to give much importance to the Army Directive which was an official Government document. This is in contrast to Colm Condon and Jack Lynch who saw this document as a hugely significant and even lethal document to the extent that if it had been revealed to the Arms Trial it would have completely contradicted Jack Lynch’s assertion that the Government never intended sending guns and ammunitions to the North. For this reason, the Army Directive was “lost” when it was requested by the defence lawyers in the first trial. This is despite the fact that Colonel Hefferon who was present at the meeting with MacEoin and Gibbons, was able to verify the existence of this document in the Planning and Operations section of Army HQ when he had the contents of the Directive read out to him over the phone just two weeks before the Arms Trial was due to commence. Hefferon who was the chief State prosecution witness was due to give evidence at the trial and was anxious to verify that his record of the Army Directive was accurate. It turned out that Hefferon’s record of the Directive was in accordance with the Official Directive.
It was also obvious that Lynch was very much aware of the significance of this Directive in contradicting the States’s false prosecution case to such an extent that he felt that it was necessary to forge the original Directive and make the forged copy available at the second trial. The new Minister for Defence, Gerry Cronin, later admitted his role in this forgery and implicated Lynch as also having been involved in the forgery. Cronin excused his role in the forgery on the basis that he was just appointed a new Minister and was therefore in some way naïve and also due to the fact that he believed in Lynch’s bona fides. During the arms debacle Lynch had a tendency to appoint naïve politicians to the very important and sensitive Cabinet positions in Justice and Defence, Des O’Malley in Justice and Gerry Cronin in Defence. As Oscar Wilde famously said “ to appoint one naïve Minister is unfortunate but to appoint two naïve Ministers is reckless”. However, Jack was very clever and there may have been a method to Jack’s apparent “Recklessness”. Des O’ Malley does not appear to have been aware of this forgery. In fact, once again Des O’ Malley does not appear to have been aware of very many of the important relevant aspects and activities surrounding the Arms trials and if this is the case then it might even cast doubts on his claim to have been “centrally involved”. Addendum to the Army Directive
This Addendum to the Army Directive was issued on 11 February 1970 and stated that “The Taoiseach and other Ministers have met delegations from the North. At these meetings urgent demands were made for respirators, weapons and ammunition, the provision of which the Government agreed. Accordingly truck loads of these items will be put at readiness so that they may be available in a matter of hours”.
Within eight weeks of this order, 500 rifles were transported from an Army Barracks in Dublin to Dundalk when it appeared that the Catholic population in Ballymurphy, Belfast who were defenceless against an expected armed attack by Loyalist gunmen and arsonists were in danger of being murdered and burned out of their homes as had happened in August 1969. It had been rumoured that the British Army were pulling out of Ballymurphy so that the Catholics would have been defenceless and slaughtered. This was exactly the type of doomsday situation that the government envisaged when the Army Directive and the Addendum to the Army Directive were drawn up on 6 February and 11 February respectively.
The order to send the guns to Dundalk were issued by the Minister for Defence Jim Gibbons, by phone call from Naas and this order was therefore fully authorised by the Government. Without the authorisation which was contained in the Army Directive and the Addendum to the Government Directive, it is doubtful if Gibbons would have ordered the guns to be sent to Dundalk. Also without the foresight which was contained in the Addendum to the Government Directive to load lorries with guns in order to be on standby, it would not have been possible to carry out Gibbons orders so expeditiously.
Des O’ Malley has stated that the Taoiseach and the Government did not agree to supply Arms to the North. This is directly contradicted by the Official Army Directive and the Addendum to the Army Directive. If O’ Malley had known about the Army Directive and the Addendum, surely he would have known of their significance and import. If he had known of their existence then surely he would have mentioned them and dealt with them in his memoirs as these pieces of crucial evidence changed the narrative of the Arms Trial from one where Lynch is a hero to one where he is a deceitful and very cunning liar. The only plausible explanation is that O’Malley was ignorant of their existence or else he failed to appreciate their significance. However this does not explain why as recent as 27 September 2020 Des O’ Malley continues to peddle the version of the Arms Crisis which was fabricated by Lynch. As O’Malley was a qualified solicitor, a Minister for Justice and served in several other ministerial portfolios, surely he would have had the intelligence and wit to read the Army Directive and the Addendum, as well as Colonel Hefferon’s doctored (forged) witness statement when he was writing his memoirs in 2014, if he was serious about “setting the matter straight”. Two of these documents had been made available (the Army Directive and Hefferon’s doctored statement) in 2001 under the 30- year rule while the Addendum was miraculously discovered by Angela Clifford when she was researching for her brilliant and lengthy study on the Arms Crisis/Trials. Clifford discovered the Addendum some time on or before 2006. It is unforgiveable that Des O’ Malley who purports to have played such a “central role” in the Arms Crisis /Trials and who was anxious to “set the record straight” would not have been aware of the significance of all of the above three documents when he wrote his memoirs. It was the intention of the State Prosecutor, Colm Condon to treat these documents as if they never existed at the time of the trials and if it had not been for the 30- year rule and Angela Clifford’s superb due diligence, these documents would never have seen the light of day. However they did surface more than 30 years after the event to prove the old adage that the truth will always win out in the end.
(b) The Arms Trials – The period between 4 May 1970 and 23 October 1970
Micheál Ó Moráin was asked to resign as Minister for Justice by the Taoiseach on 4 May 1970. The story which was put out was that the Taoiseach was concerned about Ó Moráin’s drinking and it was suggested that he was an alcoholic. In the last four months I have spoken to three solicitors who either trained as solicitors or worked as solicitors (or both) with Micheal Ó Moráin in his Castlebar legal practice. Each one of these three solicitors have vouched for Micheál Ó Moráin’s probity and are adamant that Ó Moráin was not an alcoholic and was a very competent and honest solicitor. He was also an inveterate note taker. While, like a lot of politicians at that time Micheál Ó Moráin enjoyed a drink and would indulge a bit or as they say “Give it a Lash” at for example a funeral, this would never prevent him from attending to his duties the next morning. I am told by a publican who ran a pub not far from Jack’s home in Garville Avenue that Jack’s drivers would regularly call to the pub to buy Jack his favourite drink, which was a 750ml bottle of Paddy Whiskey. Jack could drink a bottle of Paddy in one sitting no problem and the only apparent effect was that he would get “teary eyed”. So Jack was no saint when it came to drinking whiskey. I am not saying that Jack was an alcoholic simply because I don’t know. But what I do know is that Jack was “fond of the auld drink” himself. The old Irish saying “aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile” comes to mind.
Des O’ Malley suggests in his memoirs that he believes that Jack Lynch appointed him, Minister for Justice because Lynch “trusted” O’ Malley. O’ Malley was only in the Dáil just over two years when he was appointed as Minister for Justice at 31 years of age which O’ Malley admits was the youngest Minister ever appointed since the foundation of the State. The appointment of such an inexperienced TD as O’Malley to the hugely important and sensitive position of Minister for Justice was a big surprise and shock in Leinster House. If the Government needed a steady hand in Justice surely Lynch would have been expected to appoint an experienced Minister to the Department of Justice. George Colley who had a number of years ministerial experience and was also a lawyer, would have been an ideal Minister for Justice and would have had the necessary seniority for the post. It therefore appeared to be totally bizarre that such a junior TD as O’ Malley was appointed to such a critical post at that particular sensitive time. Even Des himself admits to having been completely surprised when Jack told him that he was appointing him as Minister for Justice. But Jack obviously had his own reasons for this decision and nobody will ever find out the truth behind this decision as Jack kept his cards very close to his chest. He confided in his wife Maureen but that was all.
O’ Malley states in his memoirs that as far as Lynch was concerned “part of the difficulty in May 1970 was that he had not been told about events that he should have been alerted to”. Des should elaborate on this as Lynch was kept informed of the arms plan. Peter Berry told Lynch about what Captain Jim Kelly referred to as the “genesis of the arms importation plan” which concerned a meeting in a hotel in Baileboro in Co. Cavan in October 1969. This meeting which included several Citizen Defence Committee members from the North was addressed by Captain Jim Kelly as part of his role in arranging for arms to be imported. Peter Berry, as the Secretary of the Department of Justice was briefed on this meeting by special branch officers. He was in Mount Carmel Hospital at the time and was undergoing some medical procedures. Berry contacted Lynch and asked him to come out to Mount Carmel which Lynch did. Berry told Lynch about the meeting in Baileboro and the discussions that took place concerning the purchasing of arms. Lynch always denied that Berry told him about the Bailieboro meeting in October 1969. However, Berry’s version of his discussion with Lynch in Mount Carmel was verified to be true, unwittingly by Jim Gibbons. There is no doubt but that Berry told Lynch about the arms plan in October 1969 but Lynch continued to lie and deny that he was told by Berry. This is just one of over thirty proven lies that Lynch told about the arms crisis.
The idea that Jack got rid of Ó Moráin because Ó Moráin was not keeping Jack briefed about the arms importation plan is another one of Lynch’s lies. The opposite is actually the case. Ó Moráin was sacked because he knew that Lynch was aware of the arms importation plan. It has therefore been suggested that the real motivation for Jack getting rid of Micheal Ó Moráin was because Ó Moráin could corroborate the fact that Jack was aware of the covert arms importation plan and there was no way that Ó Moráin would have told lies to cover up for Jack’s denials. In order for Jack to extricate himself from the covert arms plan, Ó Moráin had to be silenced. And this is what Jack did by effectively sacking Ó Moráin even though it was reported that he resigned.
Kevin Boland who was one of only three Ministers ever to resign from government on a matter of principle, the others being Paddy Smith in 1964 and Frank Cluskey in 1983, was adamant that Jack Lynch and most of the Cabinet – in particular Jim Gibbons, then Minister for Defence – knew about the plan to import arms. Micheal Ó Moráin who sat beside Kevin Boland in Cabinet told Kevin Boland that he had kept Lynch informed of the arms importation.
Des O’ Malley was appointed to the job in Justice on 4 May 1970.
The defendants in the Arms Conspiracy Trial were charged towards the end May 1970. The defendants were Neil Blaney, Charles Haughey, John Kelly who was a member and coordinator of the Citizen Defence Committees in Northern Ireland, Captain James Kelly, a captain in Military Intelligence and Albert Luykx a Belgium businessman who was now an Irish Citizen. Of the above five defendants, John Kelly stands out as a true patriot. He was 34 years old, and was just three years older than Des O’ Malley. John Kelly, who lived in Belfast was married with a young daughter when the violence erupted in August 1969. As they say “cometh the hour, cometh the man”. Kelly was a natural leader with intelligence and charisma. He was selected by his peers to co-ordinate the Citizens Defence Committees throughout the Six Counties. He was also the interface between the CDC’s and the Irish Government and met various members of the Cabinet seeking arms. As John Kelly said, he did not come to the Irish Government seeking blankets or food or clothing. What he asked for were guns and ammunition and nobody, not one member of the Cabinet that he met, refused his request for guns. And this is why John Kelly believed he was involved in a covert Government sanctioned arms importation operation. This is verified by the Addendum which states that the Taoiseach and other Ministers agreed to provide arms to the Northern delegations they met. This is also why he felt so betrayed by Jack Lynch when he, Lynch turned his back on John Kelly and had him charged and tried with a criminal conspiracy that he was completely innocent of. And Lynch knew that John Kelly and the other defendants were innocent. In the words of Kevin Boland, John Kelly was the victim of Jack Lynch’s most despicable crime of “Felon Setting”. To turn traitor on your fellow is the worst possible crime that anyone can be accused of. It is also the act of a coward who will betray anyone in order to save their own skin. Lynch was a coward.
From the very start, Jack Lynch and Colm Condon, the Attorney General were determined to have the defendants convicted of a Conspiracy to Import Arms Illegally. At that time there was no DPP and the function of State Prosecutor was carried out by the Attorney General. The Attorney General was appointed by the Taoiseach and sat at Cabinet. The separation of duties between the Executive and the Judiciary were therefore not as clearly defined or delineated as is the case now. When Captain Jim Kelly was arrested and was being questioned by the Garda he was informed that the investigation was a “Taoiseach’s Investigation”.
So it is very easy to conclude that Lynch and Condon were colluding in charging and seeking to convict those who were charged. I do not suggest that Des O’ Malley was aware of these devious manoeuvres by Condon and Lynch. However, he should have suspected that something was not right when it became known that the defendants were charged with the crime of Conspiracy to Import Arms before the Garda had completed their investigation. Any solicitor, such as Des O’Malley should understand the way the law works. First of all you have the crime, then the suspects, then you have the Garda investigation, and then depending the results of the Investigation the prosecutor decides if there is a case to be answered. If there is a case to be answered the suspects are charged with the crime and they are then tried in court. Therefore the chronology is that the Garda investigation must be completed before the suspects are charged by the prosecutor. In the case of the defendants in the Arms Trials, the defendants were charged with the conspiracy before the Garda investigation was completed. This means that the prosecutor decided before the investigation had been completed by the Garda that these people ”were going to be “ guilty. This would remind you of the various British miscarriages of justice, such as the Guilford Four and the Birmingham Six. What was the reason for such indecent haste? Was it because the Attorney General and The Taoiseach had decided that no matter what the actual evidence turned out to be that they would ensure that the evidence which was required to convict the defendants would be provided by hook or by crook, either by perjury, suppression of key evidence or even forgery and corruption of witnesses statements, as subsequently happened.
Des O’ Malley initialled Colonel Hefferon’s Statement as having been read by him on 1st June 1970. Having read this document, surely O’ Malley would have been surprised by the evidence that was presented in the Book of Evidence and the evidence which the prosecution witness Jim Gibbons gave at the trials, when he compared it with Hefferon’s witness statement. Hefferon’s evidence in Court and in his original Witness Statement completely contradicted the State prosecution’s case as Hefferon’s evidence proved that Gibbons was kept informed of the arms importation plan while Gibbon’s evidence and the Book of Evidence claimed that Gibbons was unaware of the plan to import the arms. Hefferon was subsequently dropped as a prosecution witness for the second trial on the basis that the prosecution felt that he was an “unreliable witness”.
Nobody who knew Colonel Hefferon had anything but the highest regard for that man in terms of integrity and ability. He was of such stature that he was chosen to be JFK’s Aide de Comp when he visited Ireland in 1963. If the State prosecutor thought that Colonel Hefferon, who told nothing but the unvarnished truth in the first arms trial, was an “unreliable witness” it could only have meant that the prosecutor believed that Hefferon could not be relied on to support the prosecutor’s false charges by perjuring himself. In other words Hefferon was not a “reliable perjurer”.
Hefferon told Frank Fitzpatrick who was Jim Kelly’s solicitor on the morning of the first trial that he had spent two hours in church that morning and that he was not going to perjure himself for anyone despite the pressure which was being exerted on him by the State prosecutor to do so. He also told Fitzpatrick that his client, the defendant Captain Jim Kelly was an innocent man and that he, Fitzpatrick could believe everything that Kelly would tell him.
Was Des O’ Malley aware that there had been significant changes to Colonel Hefferon’s witness statement? When Des O’ Malley read the original Hefferon witness statement had the “suggested changes” been written onto the statement in handwriting or were these “suggested amendments” made after Des O’Malley read Hefferon’s statement? While Des O’ Malley does not appear to appreciate the significance of the “doctoring” of Colonel Hefferon’s statement he is at pains to declare that he had no part in the amendments to the statement. Was Des O’ Malley not aware of the conflict between the Book of Evidence’s version and the real version of Hefferon’s statement that he, O’ Malley had actually initialled as having read on 1st June 1970?
After the release of Colonel Hefferon’s statement under the 30-year rule it became apparent that Hefferon’s witness statement had been changed to such an extent that while the original statement clearly showed that Gibbons was kept fully informed by Jim Kelly and/or Colonel Hefferon at all stages of the arms-importation plan, the doctored statement deleted all references to Gibbons’ knowledge and involvement in the arms importation operation. In fact, the penultimate sentence in Colonel Hefferon’s statement to the Garda stated that anything which Kelly had done had been done with the authorisation of the Minister for Defence. This sentence was deleted from the Book of Evidence. How could this crucial deletion be anything other than significant and even sinister? Nothing can be clearer than that.
I think it was suggested by O’Malley that these changes were not in any way sinister and may have been procedural in nature as they referred to hearsay evidence etc. etc. However two Senior Counsel who were far more experienced in criminal law and procedures than O’Malley, who by the way was a solicitor who practiced in a general practitioner’s provincial office for less than ten years and therefore would have had very little exposure or experience in serious criminal law and procedures, were very concerned by the revelation that Hefferon’s statement had been altered or doctored in the manner in which it had. When Paddy McEntee the renowned criminal lawyer and Senior Counsel was asked about the significance of the changes to Colonel Hefferon’s witness Statement, he stated that he had no doubt whatsoever but that the changes were hugely significant. More importantly or significantly, when the lead prosecutor for the State, Seamus McKenna who was a brilliant and highly respected lawyer and who was held in very high esteem by his colleagues at the Bar became aware of the fact that Colonel Hefferon’s witness statement had been altered prior to the first trial, he was infuriated and felt that he had been deceived and handed a tainted brief by the State in 1970.
McKenna who at one stage was the Chairman of the Bar Council, asked the Bar Council to grant him permission to state openly that he had not known about this alteration confirming that he had no knowledge of the particular changes to the Witness Statement of Colonel Hefferon. To my knowledge, this was the first time that the Bar Council gave permission to a barrister to make such a statement. If Seamus McKenna thought that the changes to Colonel Hefferon’s statement were innocent and just procedural in nature then why would he have gone to the trouble of obtaining unprecedented permission from the Bar Council to make a public disclosure and clear his good name and reputation. But then Seamus McKenna was an extremely honourable man. By the way Seamus McKenna was the best man at Brian Lenihan Snr’s wedding. It just goes to show how small this country of ours is when you consider that Brian Lenihan’s best man ended up acting as the lead prosecution counsel in the trial of Brian Lenihan’s very good friend and fellow mohair suit colleague, Charles Haughey.
Before the first trial when Micheál Ó Moráin was preparing to give evidence he requested permission to review his files in his old ministry in Justice. The purpose of his request was to confirm the correctness of certain dates to ensure that his evidence was accurate. There should not have been any reason to refuse Ó Moráin’s request as it was in the interest of Justice that his evidence should be supported by verifiable facts. However Ó Moráin was refused access to his old files. And the refusal came from the Minister for Justice Des O’ Malley. This contrasts with another occasion when a request for access to the Department of Justice files was granted without any problem. This request was a request by Des O’ Malley when he was writing his memoirs. Was O’ Malley’s memoirs more important than the accuracy of evidence that was to be given by a witness in the most important trial in this country since independence. Was Ó Moráin checking his files to confirm the dates that he told Lynch about the arms importation plan? He should have been allowed to verify his own files which he had had access to just 4 months prior to his request to refresh his memory. Can Des O’ Malley explain why he denied Ó Moráin this very reasonable and honest request to review his “own files”? O’ Malley’s refusal to grant access to Ó Moráin just does not make sense and O’ Malley needs to clear the air and address this very important question.
Meeting between Des O’ Malley and Charles Haughey on 9 September 1970
It can be argued that Des O’Malley was not totally frank in relation to his involvement in the arms trial. This concerns a meeting which O’Malley had with Charles Haughey on September 9, 1970 at 2.30pm, two weeks before the commencement of the first Arms Trial on 22 September 1970.
Despite the huge importance of this meeting in terms of probity and lack of real transparency as to what the real purpose of this meeting was and what was actually discussed between O’ Malley and Haughey at that meeting, Des does not devote much space to the meeting in his memoirs. The then Secretary of the Department of Defence Peter Berry however, was disgusted at the idea of the meeting and what was actually discussed during the meeting.
To appreciate how improper it was for this meeting to happen, you must consider the fact that the Minister for Justice was meeting one of the chief defendants in a criminal conspiracy trial just two weeks before the trial. This was not just any criminal trial but was without doubt the biggest criminal trial that had occurred since the foundation of the State. How could this happen. The idea that the Minister met with Haughey at that time is totally inexcusable and cannot be justified. It has been suggested that Des O’ Malley was naïve and that this may have been justification for the meeting. How naïve could he have been when you consider that he was a 31 year old practising solicitor who had recently been appointed as Minister for Justice, which was one of the most senior cabinet positions in the government. I think we need to come up with a better and more plausible excuse than that.
Following this meeting Des O’ Malley went to see Peter Berry, who had served as the Secretary in the Department of Justice since 1936. O’ Malley told Berry that his conversation with Mr. Haughey was about Mr Berry’s statement in the Book of Evidence for the arms trial and the actual evidence that Berry was likely to give at the trial. Haughey had asked O’ Malley if Berry could be induced, directed or intimidated into not giving evidence or changing his evidence at the trial. Berry asked
O’ Malley what was meant by induced, did it mean that Berry could be bribed. O’Malley did not answer Berry’s question. Des was biting his knuckles. O’Malley went on to tell Berry that Haughey had threatened that Berry would be roasted by Counsel for the defence Seamus Sorahan.
Berry stated in his diaries that the whole nature of the meeting between O’ Malley and Haughey and the fact that O’ Malley even listened to Haughey’s threats and requests left “him (Berry) in no doubt that he (O’ Malley) was pretending to Haughey that he was his friend. It gave me (Berry) a touch of nausea”.
Berry was a very shrewd and accomplished civil servant and was probably the most experienced civil servant in the State, having served under 13 Ministers for Justice during his period as Secretary to the Department of Justice since 1936. Why then did Berry feel nauseated with O’Malley? Why did he feel that Des O’ Malley was trying to pretend to be Charlie’s friend? What would the advantage be for Des if it appeared to Charlie that Des was Charlie’s friend?
Remember that Charlie Haughey was the alleged conspirator in a crime which could have resulted in a 20- year jail term, if he had been convicted. It just does not make sense for Des O’ Malley, the Minister for Justice to have met Charlie in this manner under these circumstances, so close to the trial. If knowledge of this meeting had become public there would have been outrage and it would almost certainly have led to demands that O’Malley resign as Minister. How could anyone have confidence in a Minister for Justice who was consorting with the chief defendant in the biggest criminal trial ever since the formation of the State, less than two weeks before the criminal trial was due to start.
O’ Malley has never satisfactorily addressed the real reasons behind this meeting. Des is the only person who can explain why he really agreed to meet Haughey in these circumstances, just two weeks before Haughey was due to stand trial as a defendant in biggest criminal conspiracy trial in the history of the State. Des has an obligation to the State which by the way, is still paying him a not insubstantial pension, to deal with this meeting in a clear and forthright manner.
As mentioned above, when O’Malley met Peter Berry after his meeting with Charlie, Berry remarked that O’ Malley was biting his knuckles. This would suggest that O’ Malley may have been worried or anxious. Why would Des be worried or anxious when talking to his Department Secretary. Was it because Berry was not happy with Des meeting Charlie and Des was worried about Berry’s reaction. If according to Berry, he felt that Des was trying to appear friendly with Charlie, why would Des wish to appear to be Charlie’s friend. The suggestion might or might not be inferred that this was some kind of an “each way bet” by O’ Malley to protect his political career and in particular his ministerial career. If Charlie was acquitted there was a very strong possibility that he would contest the leadership against Lynch and would win the contest. As is the case in all parliamentary democracies the leadership are entitled to appoint their own men. Did Des want to be Jack’s “Own Man” if Charlie was convicted and imprisoned but also be Charlies’s ”Own Man” in the event that Haughey was acquitted and succeeded Lynch? In other word’s was meeting Haughey an each- way bet and was Des backing two horses. This may have been why Berry suspected that O’Malley was appearing to be Haughey’s friend. I don’t know the answer to this but maybe Des does.
Another mystery is why did Des O’Malley pass on to Berry, Charlies’s question to him as to whether Berry could be induced, directed or intimidated into changing his evidence at the Arms Trial. This really disgusted Peter Berry. Was Des, when he told Berry about Charlies enquiries or requests, passing on these requests to Peter Berry for Berry’s consideration or was he just reciting the conversation that occurred at the meeting? Why did Des inform Berry that Haughey told him that Berry would be roasted by Seamus Sorohan, under cross examination? These are some of the questions concerning Des O’ Malley’s central involvement in the Arms Trial’s that Des O’Malley needs to address. This entirely inappropriate meeting is hugely significant and Des O’ Malley needs to deal with it once and for all and finally set the matter straight.
The following is an extract from Captain James Kelly’s book on the Arms Trials. This book which is titled ‘The Thimble Riggers’ gives James Kelly’s first hand account of what went on during the period 1969 to 1970 in regard to the arm’s importation plan and the two arms trials. Captain James Kelly was a key participant in the Arms Crisis and Arms Trials, was acquitted of all charges and has been proven to have been a very honest and honourable man. Kelly told the unvarnished truth at the trials and told everything as it was.
According to Captain James Kelly in ‘The Thimble Riggers’:
“Quite clearly, these revelations (The revelations by Berry of O’ Malley’s meeting with Haughey) have the most serious significance for both Mr O’ Malley and Mr Haughey. For Mr Haughey they suggest that he was attempting to pervert the course of justice”. Kelly then went on to suggest that the Minister for Justice’s actions, if only to the extent that he passed on to Mr Berry the information which Charlie requested from O’ Malley as to whether Berry could be induced, directed or intimidated into not giving evidence or changing his evidence at the arms trials and also the fact that O’ Malley also told Berry that Haughey had said that Berry would be roasted by Sorohan, could have been interpreted as being very improper and inappropriate.
Captain Kelly also suggests that he (O’ Malley) was behaving in a manner that was totally disloyal to Mr Lynch, for as the former Taoiseach has revealed, Mr O’ Malley did not tell Mr Lynch either before or after the meeting that the meeting had taken place or what the purpose of the meeting was.” In other words, O’Malley met Lynch’s arch enemy behind Lynch’s back. No matter what one thinks of Jack Lynch, I don’t believe that he deserved to be treated so disloyally by a so called friend. It was Jack Lynch after all who was responsible for O’ Malley’s elevation to a very senior Ministerial portfolio within a short period of just over two years since he was first elected to the Dáil. If it had not been for Jack Lynch, O’ Malley may never have become a minister. Remember, Des was not a particularly dynamic minister and there was no guarantee that he would ever have been promoted to Cabinet if it was not for Jack Lynch. For O’ Malley to treat his benefactor in such a disloyal manner would make anyone feel “nauseated”. The fact that O’ Malley met Haughey behind Jack Lynch’s back only reinforces the suspicion that O’Malley may have been backing two horses. Not only would it suggest that Des was pretending to Haughey at this juncture that he was Haughey’s friend but it would also suggest that he was also pretending to Lynch that he was Lynch’s friend. In other words it might appear that Des was being two faced and insincere to both Haughey and Lynch or as the old Irish saying goes, Des was being “Tadhg a’ dá thaobh”. If O’Malley had nothing to hide then he should have told Lynch that he was meeting Haughey. He owed at least that much loyalty to Lynch.
In relation to this meeting with Haughey on 9th September 1970, Des O’ Malley should address the following questions:
- Why did Des O’ Malley agree to meet Charles Haughey on 9th September 1970, just two weeks before the Arms Trial?
- What was the real purpose of this meeting?
- What exactly was discussed at this meeting?
- Why did Des O’ Malley inform Peter Berry, after meeting Haughey that Haughey had asked him whether Berry could be induced, directed or intimidated into not giving evidence or changing his evidence at the trial. And why did O’ Malley tell Berry that Haughey had told him that Berry would be roasted by Counsel for Defence Seamus Sorohan under cross examination.
- Finally, why did O’ Malley not tell the Taoiseach Jack Lynch about his meeting with Haughey either before the meeting took place or after the meeting had taken place. Surely he should have been totally transparent with Lynch in regard to this very significant meeting .
There is another very significant aspect to Des O’ Malley’s relationship with Charles Haughey. Charles Haughey was charged with a very serious criminal offence which involved a conspiracy to illegally import arms. If Haughey had been convicted of these very serious criminal charges he could have been imprisoned for up to 20 years. The fact that he was acquitted of all charges meant that he was not proven to have been guilty of these criminal charges. However, neither Des O’ Malley nor Jack Lynch accepted the verdict of the jury and O’ Malley referred to the verdict as being “perverse”. Therefore the only conclusion that one can draw from O’ Malley’s attitude to the verdict is that he was convinced that Haughey was guilty of the very serious criminal offences that he was charged with. In other words, O’ Malley regarded Charles Haughey as a very serious criminal. And yet O’ Malley was prepared to meet this criminal two weeks before the “criminal” was to be tried for conspiracy.
As both Lynch and O’Malley believed that Haughey was a “criminal” how could Lynch appoint this “criminal” to his front bench in 1975 and appoint him to his Cabinet in 1977. And more importantly, how could Des O’ Malley, serve with this “criminal” on the Fianna Fáil front bench in 1975 and in the Cabinet in 1977 when Haughey was appointed the Minister for Health. Remember, under the concept of Cabinet Collective Responsibility, O’ Malley was agreeing to support and abide by decisions which Haughey, the “criminal”, would make while he, Haughey was Minister for Health. O’ Malley was also willing to serve in Cabinet with Haughey when Haughey was appointed Taoiseach on 5th December 1979 and finally, as leader of the PD’s O’ Malley agreed to prop up and support Charlie’s Government in the late 1980s. The one common denominator in all of these occasions where Des served with and supported Charlie was that in all of these instances Des’s political career benefitted by virtue of the fact that he was also a member of either the front bench or of the Cabinet together with Haughey.
When Des stated that the jury acquittal verdict was perverse one has to ask oneself the question as to which is more perverse, the Jury of 12 citizens of the State deciding that in their opinion five defendants who, based on the evidence presented were not guilty of the conspiracy charges which they were unfairly charged with, or Des O’ Malley agreeing to serve in Cabinet with someone who O’Malley believed to have been a very dangerous criminal and who was in O’ Malley’s view prepared to cause a bloody civil war in order to progress his own political career. You would begin to wonder as to who was more concerned about progressing their political careers! The fact that Des O’ Malley’s was prepared to serve in government with someone who he regarded as a criminal is not what you would expect from a man of honour and integrity but rather the behaviour that could be expected of someone who was prepared to do the unthinkable in order to remain a Minister in Cabinet. If an honourable person was asked to serve in Cabinet with someone who they believed to be a criminal you would expect that honourable person to do the honourable thing, refuse to serve and resign their Cabinet seat. This is what honourable people do. This is what a Kevin Boland, an honourable person, who by the way was blackguarded by Des O’ Malley, did when he resigned as the Minister for Local Government on 5 May 1970 in protest at the dishonest manner in which the Taoiseach sacked Neil Blaney and Charles Haughey. But then, being honourable is not always an easy thing. It often means endangering or even sacrificing your political career and suffering financial and other hardship. I am not too sure that Des O’ Malley was going to sacrifice his political career for anyone, including Jack Lynch, who Des would appear to have betrayed when he met Haughey behind Lynch’s back on 9 September 1970.
Des O’ Malley has never been held to account for his role in the Arms Trials in 1970. He likes to regard himself as some kind of man of integrity and man of honour. However when you examine O’ Malley’s behaviour during the period of the Arms Crisis and its aftermath, much of it discussed above, you may find many occasions where his behaviour could not honestly be described as “Honourable”, particularly in relation to the extremely improper meeting with Haughey in September 1970, two weeks before the arms trial and later on serving on the front bench and in Cabinet with Haughey.
After reading Heney, Burke and Clifford, the original Army Directive, the Addendum to the Army Directive, Colonel Hefferon’s original and true witness statement, the doctored and false Hefferon witness statement, Des must surely have serious doubts as to the factual accuracy of the narrative of the Arms Crisis and Trials that he has been led to believe by Jack Lynch since 1970.
It has been proven beyond any doubt that the conventional narrative which was responsible for false accusations being made against ordinary Irish people who were entirely innocent has now been disproven. It is now accepted by people who have read the recent literature and the “missing” evidence that the real villains and proven liars, were Jack Lynch, Colm Condon and Jim Gibbons. And that Neil Blaney, Charles Haughey, Captain Jim Kelly, John Kelly and Albert Luyxk were all involved in a legitimate government approved covert arms importation plan the purpose of which was to supply to The Citizens Defence Committees in Derry and Belfast with arms to protect themselves and their families from murderous and arsonist attacks that had already occurred in August 1969. And that, as Jack Lynch said during his TV speech to the Nation in August 1969 that the Irish Government “was not going to stand by and see innocent people being injured or worse”.
Despite Des O’ Malley’s assertions to the contrary, the guns were never intended for the IRA, an organisation which hardly existed at the time. The arms were to be supplied to the people who requested them from the Government and these were the members of the Citizens Defence Committees or CDCs. The membership of the CDC’s included members of the legal profession, members of the clergy and ordinary law- abiding citizens. Some of their members subsequently became the founding members of the SDLP. I don’t think that anybody would ever accuse the SDLP of being terrorists or supporters of violence.
The truth owns history and history therefore has an obligation to the truth
This is the true narrative of the Arms Trials and Arms Crisis and this is now the historical and true version of the events of 50 years ago. Nobody, no matter who they are or how important they may think they are, owns history. The truth owns history and history therefore has an obligation to the truth.
Part III: Setting the Matter Straight
In Des O’ Malley’s article in the Sunday Independent on 27 September 2020 he said that he felt duty bound to set the matter straight in reference to the Arms Crisis and the trials. It is my opinion that O’ Malley failed miserably in this endeavour. Des O’ Malley’s article does not refer to any verifiable independent evidence to support his “setting of the matter straight”. Des O’Malley’s argument appears to be that you should believe him because he says so and therefore it must be true! This is an insult to the intelligence of “ordinary people”. He appears to suggest that Jack Lynch did not authorise a gun running of an “illegal” kind in effect to arm the emergent Provisional IRA. It is important to read O’ Malley’s wording here. He says that Lynch did not authorise a gun running of an “Illegal“ kind. Nobody has ever suggested that. The basis for the acquittal of the defendants in the arms trial was that the arms importation plan was not “illegal” but rather a “legal “but covert arms importation plan. So the correct narrative is that rather than Lynch authorising an “illegal” arms importation plan that Lynch was perfectly aware of the Minister for Defence’s authorisation of a “legal” importation plan. Des might need to clarify the words which he used in his statement about Lynch not authorising the arms importation plan. Remember Des, when it comes to history and facts, words are very important. You were also very careless with your use of words when you referred to the Army Directive “in January 1970” when everyone knows that the Army Directive was on “6th February 1970”. Dates are very important and that is why Micheál Ó Moráin requested access to his files in the Department of Justice to check the accuracy of certain dates, shortly before he was due to give evidence at the first arms trial and why it was inexplicable when you denied him this reasonable and honest request.
The forgery of the Army Directive and the forgery of Colonel Michael Hefferon’s witness statement will verify the importance of words. Whether a particular word is included or excluded determines and can alter the meaning of a sentence or statement.
Des O’ Malley then goes on in his Sunday Independent article to mention various Ministers who Des spoke to and according to Des, none of these particular Ministers ever expressed any doubt about Lynch’s probity. According to the dictionary, the word probity is defined as “uprightness, moral integrity and honest”. As it has now been proven beyond doubt that Lynch lied in relation to his knowledge of the arms importation plan and also according to Michael Heney, Lynch lied at least 30 times in relation to the Arms Crisis and Arms Trials, then if these Ministers believed in Lynch’s probity then that can only be explained by their lack of knowledge or awareness of Lynch’s lies. If this is the case then Lynch deceived all of these Ministers. Des also spoke of having spoken to Dev twice at Dev’s request and that Dev was entirely supportive of Lynch. I am not denying that the Ministers who believed in Lynch’s probity or Dev’s support for Lynch were based on these individuals believing what Lynch said about his knowledge of the arms importation plan. What I am saying here is that the fact that these individuals believed Lynch does not in fact mean that Lynch was being honest but rather that he was being convincing. And nobody can ever describe Lynch as being anything other than convincing even when he was lying through his teeth. To be a “successful” liar, the liar has to be convincing and nobody was as convincing as Jack.
Des moves on to stating that “pretty well all of the survivors of the War of Independence and Civil War in the party” also believed in Lynch’s probity. He mentions, Frank Aiken, Paddy Smith, Seán Lemass, Seán McEntee and Dr Jim Ryan. Just because these people fought in the War of Independence and the Civil War does not mean that they could not be fooled. The important point to bear in mind is that the independent documentary evidence that became available in 2001 and that had been hidden from the Arms Trials by the prosecution and which proves that Lynch approved of the plan to supply the Northern nationalists with arms, ammunition and respirators were not made available to the Ministers mentioned above, Dev , and the War of Independence and Civil War “ heroes”. Without knowledge of these documents which did not surface until after 2001 when all of the above ministers and war veterans were dead it was very easy for Lynch, the great deceiver to deceive them. If Des reads the Army Addendum which documents the Taoiseach’s agreement to provide arms to the Northerners who requested them from him, plainly stated in black and white, it cannot be denied that Lynch approved of the decision to provide arms to Northern Nationalist.
The Addendum was an official document that was hidden from the Arms Trials purely because it would have severely damaged the prosecution case against those improperly charged with Conspiracy to import arms illegally and the charges would have been thrown out.
Des also mentions certain civil servants to support his assertions. He says that all of these senior civil servants were “men whose loyalty to the state and adherence to the law is unquestionable. They would never have countenanced any subversive activity by the State“. Of course they wouldn’t have countenanced any “subversive” activity. Nobody has suggested that they would. This is implying that the covert but legal attempt to import arms could be classified as “subversive activity”. How could something which was authorised (arms importation plan) by the appropriate authority (Minister for Defence Jim Gibbons) be a “subversive activity”? It could not be classified as anything other than legal and proper. The jury who acquitted the defendants in the arm’s trial of all charges in connection with a conspiracy to illegally import arms also believed, after hearing all of the evidence that the arms plan was legal and proper.
It is very interesting that O’ Malley mentions Peter Berry, the Secretary in the Department of Justice as one of the civil servants whose “loyalty to the state and adherence to the law is unquestionable”. This may be precisely the reason why Peter Berry felt nauseated when he heard about Des O’ Malley’s meeting with Charlie Haughey just two weeks before the commencement of the first arms trial. The fact that O’ Malley who was the Minister for Justice and Haughey who was the chief defendant in the biggest criminal trial in the history of the state were meeting to discuss the trial was a disgrace that has never being properly dealt with and addressed by O’ Malley. Berry obviously was nauseated by O’ Malley agreeing to meet Haughey because he felt that the meeting was wrong and entirely inappropriate.
It may or indeed must now be a great embarrassment for Des that he gave the oration for Jack Lynch and praised him for his “ honesty, humility and integrity” and “enormous courage and integrity”. Des also said that it was his wish that the “Life and career of this wonderful man and dear friend would inspire younger people to follow his example and to be publicly generous of themselves at a time when the commitment to courage and integrity is so badly needed”. How could you describe Lynch as being courageous and honest when the undeniable evidence is that Lynch, threw his colleagues Blaney and Haughey and also two innocent and honourable family men, Captain Jim Kelly and John Kelly to the wolves purely to protect his own position? I would not regard this as being the actions of a man who possessed “enormous courage and integrity”. Des must now realise how foolish his description of Lynch was and it must make him cringe when he thinks back on it. Des was obviously fooled and deceived by his friend and benefactor Jack Lynch. That makes Des O’ Malley’s oration to his fallen friend and hero a very foolish and embarrassing eulogy.
If based on the above incontrovertible documentary evidence Des continues to refuse to believe the real true story behind the Arms Trials as articulated by Heney, Burke and Clifford and refuses to make a public statement that the old narrative that applied up until 2020 was incorrect, then maybe the title of his memoir published in 2014 will become the narrative of the epitaph on Des O’ Malley’s grave – “Conduct Unbecoming”. I would not wish for that to happen.
When I read Des O’ Malley’s article in the Sunday Independent it reminded me of Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who, while hiding in the Philippines, continued to believe that Japan was still winning the second world war, until the penny dropped in 1974 and Hiroo had an epiphany, accepted the fact that Japan had lost the war and then surrendered. Some people might say that Hiroo was a very slow learner but others might say that he wasn’t as slow as Des O’ Malley. Hiroo was deluded for a mere 29 years while Des is still deluded almost 51 years later. Des, it is now time for you to come out of your self- imposed jungle, put your hands up and surrender. The war is over!
Anyone can make a mistake but it takes moral courage to admit one’s mistake. The question is “Does Des have the required moral courage to admit his mistake and set the matter straight in relation to the true narrative of the arms Crisis?”. I hope he does the honourable thing. Lynch and Gibbons lied and deceived. Remember Des, as Paudge Brennan who helped elect you in 1968 was often quoted as saying “It is never the wrong time to do the right thing”. If you do the right thing now you might do as your nemesis did and you might “Do the State Some Service”. You would also do yourself and the families of the victims of the huge travesty of justice which occurred in 1970 as a result of Jack Lynch and Jim Gibbons’ lies, a huge favour and a sense of closure which they have been seeking for the last 51 years.
MORE ARTICLES ABOUT THE ARMS CRISIS ON THIS WEBSITE:
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.