De Rossa tells court of previous IRA involvement

 

MR De Rossa said he had been interned in the Curragh for about two years when he was in his teens and that he resigned from the IRA in 1960 because he considered the whole business of armed struggle and trying to force people in Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic was utter nonsense. You couldn't create a united Ireland by force," he added.

Mr De Rossa was giving evidence on the second day of his libel action against the Sunday Independent following an article by Mr Eamon Dunphy on December 13th, 1992.

When the hearing opened on Tuesday, Mr Adrian Hardiman SC, for Mr De Rossa, said the newspaper published material, which associated his client with truly horrible activities, such as, "subversion, armed robbery, prostitution and protection rackets.

The defence admits that it published the words but denies they were published falsely or maliciously, as alleged.

Yesterday, Mr De Rossa said he became involved with Na Fianna Eireann when he was 12. He did not know at the time that it was part of the republican movement.

There was a major anti partition campaign at the time. The problems of poverty and emigration at the time were put down to the fact that Britain still held part of the country.

Na Fianna did hiking and campaigning. There was a lot of talk about history. Camp fire songs were nationalistic about the War of Independence and Civil War. He was in Na Fianna until he was 16.

In Na Fianna, it was sort of presumed that at a certain point, one would join the IRA. In 1953-54, the IRA was reorganising and carried out a number of raids in the North. A lot of people were interested in the election campaign and Sinn Fein members were elected.

One could not join the IRA until age 16. Soon after his 16th birthday, he was anxious to join. It was a very romantic thing to do at the time. "A large number of us joined at the time," Mr De Rossa said.

At the end of 1956, the IRA launched a campaign in Northern Ireland. It, was aimed at British forces in Ireland, modelled to some extent on the flying columns of the 1920s. There were attacks on RUC barracks.

Part of the policy at the time was that there would never be any attacks on B Specials or in Belfast. Everybody was anxious that there would not be any resurgence of sectarianism, giving rise to sectarian attacks.

It was clear the IRA saw itself as an army. It was not in the business of assassinations and saw itself as an army fighting an army.

Mr De Rossa said his personal participation was very minor. He joined in 1956 and was 16 1/2 when the campaign started. His involvement was training, route marches and so on. There was a build up of feeling in the 1950s. Two prisoners were elected as MPs.

In a raid on Brookeborough barracks, an RUC man was killed. Sean South and Fergal O'Hanlon were also killed. This gave rise to huge emotional feeling down here. People were being arrested on the Border.

There were massive turnouts at the South and O'Hanlon funerals.

There was a general election in the State in March 1957. He joined Sinn Fein. Four Sinn Fein TDs were elected on an abstentionist basis.

After the election, he and 30 to 40 other young men were arrested on a route march in Wicklow mountains and charged under the Offences Against the State Act. They did not recognise the court.

He and others were sentenced to two months in prison.

Before that was up, the government of the day introduced internment. He was transferred from Mountjoy to the Curragh. He had lust turned 17. He was in the Curragh for about two years until 1959. The number interned rose to over 200.

He was released in 1959 and arrested again in 1960. He was charged under the Offences Against the State Act and got three months. In the Curragh, he had come to the clear realisation [hat "this kind of thing" was very futile, pointless and not justified. He refused to go on active service.

He resigned from the IRA in 1960 and remained in Sinn Fein. Virtually everyone he had known in the Curragh had more or less come to the same conclusion. There was a clear indication that the people in leadership were moving in a new direction. The military campaign was called off in 1962.

He married in 1962 and had three children. He was marginally active in Sinn Fein, interested in social policies developing around co operatives, ground rents fishing rights and housing. His first involvement with Dublin Housing Action Committee was in 1967.

He had all sorts of jobs. He was a truck driver, bus driver, van salesman and sold encyclopaedias. At the end of the 1960s, his father was in bad health and asked him to help run the vegetable delivery business.

In Sinn Fein, the whole shift was away from a military campaign and that, they should argue for civil rights in Northern Ireland one man, one vote disarming the RUC in tandem with social agitation. There were still people who believed it to be a propaganda wing of the IRA and withdrew.

Mr De Rossa said that in 1969, the civil rights campaign "exploded". His attitude was to ensure civil rights were kept to the forefront. He was a fairly minor figure in the Dublin area. It did, not make sense that violence would re emerge from the nationalist side.

All demands of the civil rights movement were achieved at the time but the re emergence of the IRA resulted in re arming of the RUC. The British army was put on the streets of Northern Ireland.

In the 1960s, those who felt there should be a traditional role had "pulled back" and refused to get involved in social agitation.

There was a split in the republican movement, resulting in Provisional Sinn Fein and Official Sinn Fein. Official Sinn Fein wanted to move away from the struggle. He was not involved in Provisional Sinn Fein. He had some involvement with Official Sinn Fein. His primary involvement in politics was in housing action agitation.

He stood for election for Sinn Fein in 1967 and failed to get elected. He was not all that active after that. It was only after the split that he became reactivated.

He wanted to support those opposing violence in Northern Ireland.

Those who stayed with the Official Republican movement after the split had decided they did not want to be involved in physical force for political ends. They were urging the Official IRA should disengage.

There was an appalling explosion in Aldershot and in 1972, there was a ceasefire by the Official IRA. It declared it had no wish to become involved in violence.

There was a subsequent split in the Official Republican movement in 1975, when a group wanted to rejoin the Provisionals. They left and formed the INLA.

He had no involvement.