Countering support for IRA was one of WP's main concerns in contracting parties abroad, court told

 

IN November 1983 the Workers' Party press officer, Mr Tony Heffernan, told an ardchomhairle meeting that some people perceived the party as being "recent converts from violence", the High Court heard yesterday.

On the fourth day of the hearing, Mr Patrick MacEntee SC, for Independent Newspapers, continued his cross-examination of Mr De Rossa.

Asked about Mr Heffernan's comment, Mr De Rossa said: "That was a view of Tony's, it was not my view."

He added: "Because that is one person's belief, it doesn't mean it is a fact."

Mr De Rossa said the year before that, the people of Dublin North West had elected him to the Dail and if they had that perception he doubted if they would have voted for him.

He told the court that Mr Heffernan was at that time a member of the ardchomhairle, the political committee, and employed on a full-time basis as PRO, working with the TDs in the Dail.

Asked if Mr Heffernan had anything to do with Repsol, Mr De Rossa replied: "Not that I am aware, no.

Asked if there was a belief among some [people on the ardchomhairle and, in the political committee that the WP had an image problem, Mr De Rossa said that obviously every political party was concerned about image.

Mr MacEntee asked if it was not strange that people concerned with the party, such as Mr Heffernan, still believed that they were very recent converts.

Mr De Rossa said that was the view of one person. It was no secret to the public at large that the WP emerged from the republican movement and so it would not be surprising that some people regarded it as a recent convert to violence, but the thing was that they regarded the party as converts from" violence.

Asked about a letter sent to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from the WP general secretary, Mr Sean Garland, Mr De Rossa said it was a standard and draft letter sent to a range of parties, communist and socialist.

Mr MacEntee said: "Parties you can address as comrade?"

"Yes, I could address you as comrade but I don't think you'd be too happy with it, Mr MacEntee," Mr De Rossa said.

Asked if when he went to Russia with Sean Garland in September 1986, he made a report on the visit, Mr De Rossa said he did not, he was simply a passenger. He was stopping off in Moscow in transit to North Korea. It was one of three visits he made there in a 10-year period.

When Mr MacEntee read out part of a report of a WP visit to Moscow, Mr De Rossa said he wanted him to read the whole report as he did not think it was fair to do so selectively.

Mr Mac Entee said that he decided what he would read, but if Mr De Rossa wanted to, he could.

Mr Justice Moriarty said he had got to "keep a grip on proceedings. He would be just as concerned that the jury did not get an edited view. He would make sure they had it (the report). Mr De Rossa's counsel could re-examine, if he wanted to, on the issue.

Earlier Mr De Rossa told the court that countering international support for the IRA was one of the WP's main concerns in contacting international parties abroad.

He agreed the WP decided to seek formal relations with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in November 1983. The party tried to establish contact with a broad number of international party including, at one time, the Tory Party in Britain.

"Our primary concern in international relations was to convey that no party abroad should support the Provisional IRA," said Mr De Rossa. The Workers's Party was also particularly concerned about the arms race.

Referring to the minutes of a Workers Party ardchomhairle meeting in November. 1983, Mr MacEntee said it was recorded that Sean Garland and Des O'Hagan were to undertake a trip to Moscow at the invitation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He asked if that was the first of a series of trips to the USSR.

Mr De Rossa said he knew that was the occasion when it was decided that formal relations with the Communist Party of the USSR would be sought. He understood from reports that contact had also been made in the 1970s.

The normal procedure was for communist parties abroad to establish "fraternal relations" with other parties; in Ireland's case such relations had been established between Moscow and the Communist Party of Ireland and the WP was not seeking to displace the CPI.

Mr De Rossa said his party's primary concern was the CPI's support, "in a critical way", of the Provisional IRA. "We felt this was influencing the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and this was doing damage to Ireland."

Asked by Mr MacEntee about links with other communist parties at that time, Mr De Rossa said the WP subsequently sought to establish formal relationships with the communist party of East Germany. But this was in the context of seeking relationships with dozens of parties in both eastern and, western Europe "to convey our views about what we felt was a mistaken view abroad about the murder campaign in Northern Ireland".

Mr MacEntee asked if it was expensive to send people to Russia. Mr De Rossa said in some cases where invitations were received from parties abroad, they would write back and say "we don't have the money to travel but if you're prepared to allow us the price of a ticket we're prepared to go".

Mr MacEntee: "Did the Russians ever pay?"

Mr De Rossa: "Yes, they did."