My memory of events in 1982 gives a very different picture

Wed, Oct 10, 2012, 01:00

OPINION: THE GUBU DIARY, A RESPONSE:ON SATURDAY, September 29th, The Irish Times published an article (“The Gubu Diary – Inside the grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre, unprecedented events of 1982”) about my alleged role in a number of events which took place in that year.

It relied in large part on an interview with James Kirby, who once worked in the Department of Justice. It contained a number of serious factual errors. Space will permit me to deal only with some of the more serious assertions in this response. I was not consulted before it appeared, something which was particularly surprising as I had granted an extensive interview to Conor Brady, the former editor of The Irish Times, on March 23rd, 1984.

The meeting of July 1982

Mr Kirby described a meeting in the taoiseach’s office in July 1982 at which he claims I “indicated that the law of the land was not going to be operated in relation to terrorists. Mr Haughey ordered that no notes were to be taken”. The notion that I would assist subversives by inaction is grotesque, shocking and an insult to my character. There were others at the meeting. Clearly, they were not interviewed prior to publication. The recollections of those present who are still alive should now be sought and reported by your paper. Some of them are named in The Boss.

The meeting was called by Mr Haughey to obtain an overview of subversive activities. At the outset, he praised the gardaí for their dealings with subversion and stated that his government continued to give the force its full support.

I then spoke about subversion in Irish and international terms, addressing the procurement of firearms, ammunition and explosives. I also focused on the funding of subversion, the use of European banks and the laundering of funds and other deposits. It is self-evident that these were highly confidential matters, and hence it would have been wholly inappropriate for anybody to have left the meeting with notes which could have fallen into the wrong hands.

The meeting was attended by a number of diplomats from Foreign Affairs. One of my aims was to highlight the fact that the State was under stress because of subversive activities emanating from abroad. I requested of them that if useful intelligence became available abroad, it should be forwarded here as quickly as possible. This request was made against a background where Ireland does not have an overseas intelligence service.

Thus, the meeting was designed to further curtail subversion, not assist it through inaction.

At no time did I say that the law would not be enforced against subversives and nobody at the meeting uttered such words, including the taoiseach. Neither was this implied in any way. The commissioner of the Garda Síochána, along with the senior diplomats, the attorney general and the minister for justice were also present. Does Mr Kirby mean to convey that they sat there mute as I made such an astounding and treacherous statement?

The Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act

Mr Kirby states that I spoke about not operating the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act. This is also inaccurate. When it was first passed into law, it was discovered that there were difficulties with it, especially in relation to the attendance of witnesses from other jurisdictions. For a long time nothing came up which made it necessary to use the Act.

Eventually, a case did emerge. A person was arrested here, who, at that time was wanted in the UK and in Northern Ireland. Despite the difficulties with the legislation, it was decided by the Haughey administration to use the Act. No suggestion was ever made to me or anybody I am aware of, by Mr Haughey, or any of his aides or associates, about the non-operation of the Act at any time thereafter. I would have been aghast if they had.

My dealings with Mr Haughey related to national security except on one or two occasions when I addressed his security and that of his family (ie protection of his home). The meeting, or meetings, I had at his house were about protection from potential snipers and parcel bombs. The article of September 29th seems to suggest that we were planning some sort of a third world coup at Kinsealy. This is not only inaccurate, it is fanciful in the extreme; the stuff of spy fiction.


The clear implication in your article about the so-called Dowra affair is that a Garda officer arranged for the arrest of an innocent man to prevent him crossing the Border into the South to give evidence against the brother-in-law of the minister for justice.

Mr Kirby is the proponent of this conspiracy theory. Unfortunately, the finger of accusation is pointed at me. Mr Kirby provides no facts, only supposition: “at some stage or another . . . the penny dropped”, he says. In the real world, I actually attempted to get the case adjourned when I found out at the last minute that the RUC had arrested the witness, so the prosecution could proceed later.

From some of the accounts I have read, it appears that some in the RUC were uncomfortable about the arrest. Indeed, the arrested man was compensated later. There are alternative views about the arrest including one that it was part of a British intelligence operation. In any event, I was never involved in perverting, or attempting to pervert the course of justice and to imply that I was, however veiled, is a grotesque insult to my character.

No doubt other people have come to the same strange conclusion as Mr Kirby about Dowra. Yet I cannot really blame them for I know they were the victim of dark forces operating from the shadows who were pumping out carefully tailored propaganda. The smears they disseminated about me were obviously a great success.

I have a very good idea exactly who was leaking disinformation from inside the Garda to the media. Of interest, all of them had worked closely, perhaps too closely, with foreign services prior to this. The deceivers were prone to telling people that their phones were tapped, when they weren’t.

Mr Kirby’s phone was never tapped. There was no conceivable reason why it should be. Yet your article now reveals that “Kirby says he received a phone call from a [now deceased] chief superintendent in the Garda security section one Friday afternoon, who told him not to use his home phone that weekend. ‘If you need to make any calls. Go and use a public phone box’, he said”. This officer was a malicious fraudster who was determined to create paranoia and dissent and was working to an agenda. Mr Kirby should identify him by name.*

Mr Kirby makes an issue of our visit to Copenhagen at the height of the Dowra affair. The truth is that on arrival in Copenhagen, I phoned the commissioner and recommended that he set up an inquiry into the allegations that had appeared in the press about the controversial arrest, and the commissioner readily agreed.

He asked if I had anyone in mind to take charge of the inquiry. I recommended Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Fanning, and the inquiry was set up. From there on I had no input into it. Of interest, I never saw the Dowra file, I never read the Dowra file nor any documents in the file.

Unfortunately, the machinations involved in the Dowra affair appear to have damaged relations between the RUC and the Garda for a number of years from 1983.

Phone Taps

The implication of Mr Kirby’s allegation relative to the phone taps is that I somehow morphed into a stooge to carry out Fianna Fáil’s bidding. One incident in 1982 establishes that this was not the case. One night, as tensions were rising inside Fianna Fáil, one of my officers noticed that senior Fianna Fáil figures were converging on a house near an important embassy the Garda monitored. I was informed. It was clear to me that the politicians were going to a private meeting. It was probably political.

At that time the media had termed a number of Fianna Fáil persons as “dissidents”. This was a meeting of “dissidents”. It was entirely legitimate and their own business. It certainly had nothing to do with Garda special branch. Hence, I didn’t hesitate in telling my officers to do nothing about it and ignore what they had seen. Thereafter, I told no one about it.

The Arnold/Kennedy taps were put in place to establish where leaks from the cabinet and government departments were springing; not to gather political gossip.

The leaks may have involved breaches of the Official Secrets Act insofar as the leakers were concerned. When it became clear that the phone taps were not going to assist in this regard, I terminated them. In the case of Geraldine Kennedy, I directed that that tap on her should cease before it actually did. However, due to an administration error, it remained in place for a while afterwards. When I discovered this, I directed that it be withdrawn forthwith. If I was seeking political gossip, I could have left it in place. The taps had no connection whatsoever with subversion, or wrongdoing. I would like to add that the journalists were doing their jobs, and from a journalistic point of view, were doing them very well, but I still had to trace the leaks.

Mr Kirby also claims that I justified the Kennedy phone tap on the basis that very high “powered IRA meetings are taking place in that house”. I made no such statement.

There are many other errors in the article of September 29th (and more again in The Boss which was co-written by one of the authors of the article, Joe Joyce) which I will not go into here due to space considerations. Only a fraction of what was going on in 1982 has ever been revealed. For the present, my failure to contend with the other erroneous issues in the article is not to be taken as an admission of their accuracy.

Joe Ainsworth is a retired former deputy commissioner of the Garda Síochána.

*James Kirby has confirmed that the chief superintendent concerned was Stephen Fanning

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