Gerry Adams’ IRA denial ‘a lie’, veteran republican says in TV series

Des Long says he sat opposite Adams at meetings of the IRA’s Army Council

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, who has been accused of lying by claiming he was never a member of the IRA. Photograph: PA

Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams’ assertion that he was never a member of the IRA is a “lie”, a former IRA leader has claimed in a new BBC TV series on the Troubles.

Mr Adams has consistently denied that he was a member of the IRA.

Des Long, who was on the IRA's army executive for 17 years, says Mr Adams was the chairman of the IRA's Army Council and sat opposite him at executive meetings.

His interview is to be screened tonight as part of the second episode of Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History, a seven-part BBC Northern Ireland documentary investigating the Troubles.


When presenter, Darragh MacIntyre, puts it to Mr Long that Mr Adams “wasn’t in the IRA”, Mr Long laughs.

“You can’t be on the army council unless you’re a volunteer, and you can’t be chairman of the army council unless you’re a member of the army council, and I sat opposite him in meetings,” he responds.

“That lie he comes out with that he was never in the IRA, that’s a lie, and I’m saying that now as having sat opposite him in meetings. I’ll probably get shot for it, but I’m saying it,” he adds.

Earlier this year, Mr Adams told the inquest into the British army’s killing of 10 people in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971 that: “I was not a member of the IRA, I have never disassociated myself with the IRA, and I never will, until the day I die.”

Republican split

In the programme, Mr McIntyre explains Mr Adams declined to take part in the series. He also says Mr Long fell out with Mr Adams in 1986 during a wider republican split.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, the Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy rejected the claims, saying they were “not new” and Mr Adams had “consistently denied them.”

“I know the programme has to trail titbits to try and excite some interest every Monday or Tuesday, he said.

“These allegations have been made over the years, they have been consistently denied and I think you have to look at the people who are making the allegations to see what their motivation is” he said.

The programme also interviews Lord Ramsbotham, the British army’s Brigade Commander in Belfast from 1978-80, who says that the army’s view was that Mr Adams “was held to be the chief of staff [OF THE IRA]”.

“I was aware that he was a highly intelligent man and that he had never used a pistol or thrown a bomb,” says Lord Ramsbotham, “but he was definitely a strategic planner of the highest order and I thought certainly he was directing the political direction of the IRA.”

The episode begins in 1972, the bloodiest year of the conflict, which the IRA anticipated would be its “year of victory”.

It includes rediscovered footage which was filmed for an American documentary, The Secret Army, which shows a bomb attack being planned and carried out in Belfast, gunmen in Derry, and weapons classes for IRA recruits.

It includes images of the planning and execution of a bomb attack on the Queen’s University Sports Hall in Belfast in May 1972, in which several people were hurt.

IRA ceasefire

The programme also reveals new details about the IRA ceasefire of 1975 which include the claim that Britain had agreed to discuss its withdrawal from Northern Ireland.

But a document written by the most senior official in the Northern Ireland Office and uncovered by the BBC reveals the British plan was to weaken the IRA by “stringing them along”.

The former commander of the IRA in Belfast, Billy McKee - who died earlier this year - said that “on the table was British withdrawal. They came to us, they sent for us at that time, we didn’t go to them,” he says.

The IRA met with the British “over a dozen times”,” he explained. “I was convinced they were very serious.”

The programme also reveals a secret British army report from 1978 on “Northern Ireland Future Terrorist Trends”, which concluded in 1978 that the IRA was “well equipped, more professional and capable of waging war for the foreseeable future.”

The first programme in the series, which was broadcast last week, included claims that the former DUP leader Ian Paisley supplied money to the UVF to carry out a number of bombings in 1969.

It also contains rare footage of the former deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, allegedly preparing a car bomb for an attack on Derry’s Guildhall in 1972.

Episode Two of Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History will be shown Tuesday, September 17th at 9pm on BBC One Northern Ireland and BBC Four.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times