SF denies British claims from 1982 linking Ellis to 50 murders

Sat, Dec 29, 2012, 00:00

Sinn Féin has rejected a claim in a 1982 British embassy telegram from Washington that the party’s Dublin North-West TD Dessie Ellis was “linked by forensic evidence to some 50 murders in Northern Ireland and the Republic”. The telegram has been published as part of newly released British state papers.

Contacted last night, Mr Ellis told The Irish Times he had sent out a press release through his party “and that’s all I’m doing at the moment”.

The Sinn Féin statement said: “Irish Republicans do not attach any value to claims made in secret documents emanating from the British secret services, who were responsible for countless murders in Ireland during the course of the conflict.These are the same faceless securocrats who murdered Pat Finucane.

“This is not the first time such unsubstantiated allegations have been made and Dessie Ellis rejects them as he has repeatedly done.

“Following a prolonged hunger strike in the 1990s to protest his extradition to Britain, Dessie successfully beat these trumped up charges in court.

“Dessie Ellis has made no secret of his involvement in the republican struggle over many decades, including within the ranks of the IRA. Dessie has also been an important persuader for the peace process for many years,” the statement added.

A telegram from the British embassy in Washington on February 12th, 1982, released to the national archives in London, reported that five Irish men, travelling in two cars from Canada, had been arrested in Buffalo, New York, trying to enter the US illegally, including one IRA suspect.

“As you know, one of those arrested has turned out on investigation to be Desmond Ellis, who was arrested in Dublin in May 1981 for possession of electronic remote-controlled devices. We understand that Ellis is linked by forensic evidence to some 50 murders in Northern Ireland and the Republic.”

Both the Irish and British governments immediately contacted the US state department in order to make his identity known to US authorities. According to British officials, the US authorities offered to co-operate to do “what they can to avoid an early outcome which would allow Ellis go free”.

Mr Ellis was subsequently extradited to Ireland where he was convicted and sent to prison for eight years for possession of explosives. He later became the first person to be extradited to the UK under the 1987 Extradition Act, but was acquitted by a jury at the Old Bailey in London in 1991 on a charge of conspiring to cause explosions in the UK.

Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan TD last night called on Mr Ellis to “come clean” on the matter. “While the Sinn Féin party leader, Deputy Gerry Adams, continues to dispute his own membership of the IRA, Deputy Ellis has done no such thing, saying the full extent of his involvement ‘at the highest levels’ will be made known after he leaves politics.

“We cannot simply forget the past and sweep the issues which strike at the very heart of the democratic process under the carpet to suit Sinn Féin.”