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12 July 2001 Edition

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``Cover-up on Arms Trial'' - Ó Caoláin

Speaking in a special Dáil debate on the latest report on the Arms Trial, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that the number of key documents which are missing point to a cover up. The debate came after the publication of reports from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Attorney-General and the Garda Commissioner.

Ó Caoláin's colleague, Sinn Féin Assembly member John Kelly, who was a defendant in the Arms Trial, was present for the debate, as was another defendant, Captain James Kelly of County Cavan. Addressing the Dáil, Ó Caolain said:

``An extraordinary feature of the debate in the State since the ``Prime Time'' revelations in April has been the extent to which it has focused almost exclusively on events on this side of the Border. There has been little mention, let alone exploration, of the reasons arms were sought in the first place. All the emphasis has been on the crisis within Fianna Fáil and the machinations in and around Government Buildings and Leinster House.

``Deputy O'Malley is not alone in what I regard as the totally false view that what was at issue in 1969 and 1970 was an alleged threat to democracy in this jurisdiction. In this fairy tale version of recent history, the late Jack Lynch saved the people from anarchy and civil war. This grossly partitionist view deliberately ignores the catastrophe experienced by the nationalist people of the Six Counties. People were killed by the B-Specials and the regular RUC in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. They were forced from their homes, their streets were burned and we had one of the largest forced movements of the civilian population in Ireland, if not since Cromwell then certainly since the Famine. This was the real threat, crisis and catastrophe in Ireland in 1970 and it was not in the leafy suburbs of Dublin 4.

``The problems in 1970 were not what the Government did but what it failed to do. It failed to come to the defence of those under attack by the forces of the Orange state. It failed to confront the British government with its responsibilities. The nationalist people saw the prosecution of the defendants in the arms trial as confirmation that the political establishment in the State had abandoned them and was concerned only with its own partitionist political interests.

``What is clear from a preliminary reading of the reports is that they raise infinitely more questions than they give answers. There is a glaring contradiction between the Attorney General's report, which states that the edited version of Colonel Hefferon's statement was probably prepared by Gardaí in Dublin Castle, and the report of the Garda Commissioner, Patrick Byrne, which states that the Gardaí were merely typists of the statement and that ``no member of the Garda Síochána edited any statement taken during the course of the investigation.''

``Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Attorney General's report is the list of documents and material that have disappeared since the trials. These include the prosecution file, the Garda file and working papers relating to the preparation of the book of evidence. What has happened to these documents? I believe there was a cover up and that they were concealed or destroyed to serve that cover up.

``The reports published last night do nothing to undermine the view that Colonel Hefferon's statement was edited to hide the knowledge and involvement of the then Minister for Defence, Jim Gibbons, in the arms importation. It should not be forgotten that the accused in the arms trial were acquitted.

``Two of them are in this building today, my colleague Sinn Féin Assembly Member, John Kelly, and Captain James Kelly. A key reason for the acquittals was that they were seen as the scapegoats while the Lynch faction in the Cabinet protected itself from the consequences of actions which had been initiated by the government and not by the defendants. The reports published last night strengthened the demand for a public inquiry into this whole affair. I call for such an inquiry to be established without further delay.''

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