No evidence of RUC involvement in murder attempt on Gerry Adams, Police Ombudsman finds

Leader of UDA gang who tried to kill Sinn Fein president was himself assassinated

There is no evidence that the RUC was involved in a UDA gun attack that left Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams with serious wounds over 30 years ago, the North's Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, has found.

Members of the Ulster Defence Association, using its Ulster Freedom Fighters cover name, carried out a gun attack on a car containing Mr Adams and four other republicans as they were driving towards Belfast Magistrates Court in March 1984.

Sprayed with bullets

Mr Adams was hit in the neck, shoulder and arm as his vehicle was sprayed with some 20 bullets in the attack led by senior UDA figure John “Grugg” Gregg.

The driver, despite being hit, managed to escape the scene and drive to the Royal Victoria Hospital.


Dr Maguire, in his investigation, reported that Gregg and two other gunmen were arrested by an off-duty Ulster Defence Regiment soldier who was driving in the area, by an off-duty RUC officer who arrived at the scene, and by two British soldiers in plain clothes.

“We have talked to all the people involved in the events that day, including the perpetrators, the victims and the police. We have examined all the available evidence, including forensic and sensitive intelligence material and found no evidence that police knew of the attack beforehand,” he said.

Killed in feud

Gregg and two other UDA men received lengthy prison sentences. When Gregg was released he once again became a senior UDA leader, being the so-called brigadier for southeast Antrim. In 2003 he was killed during a feud involving his mainstream UDA and a group led by

Johnny Adair


Dr Maguire conducted his investigation following a complaint by Mr Adams and after two newspaper reports stated that members of the RUC knew in advance of the attack.

Mr Adams alleged that the police or the security forces either had prior knowledge or had been involved. He said he felt “something was not quite right” about the entire incident and wondered how security force personnel “coincidentally” appeared at the scene that day.

A Police Ombudsman team spoke to Mr Adams, to the soldiers who arrived on the scene, to members of the public who saw what happened, to the two surviving gunmen who carried out the attack and to a number of retired police officers.

One of the convicted men said he had no part in planning the operation while the getaway driver said he suspected it was planned close to, if not on the day itself. Dr Maguire also reported that the off-duty UDR soldier and the two other soldiers accounted for their presence at the scene and these accounts were supported by independent witnesses.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times