US congressman: Adams warned of IRA threat before bombing

British demand for prior decommissioning was ‘single most serious mistake’ made by any party involved in peace process, says former Irish diplomat in BBC programme

A senior American Congressman has recounted how he was warned by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in November 1995 that unless there was political movement the IRA ceasefire called the previous August would be in jeopardy.

Former congressman Bruce Morrison said that just over two months before the IRA ended its ceasefire on February 9th, 1996, Mr Adams warned him that a British government demand for some prior IRA disarmament was threatening the ceasefire.

Former senior Irish diplomat Seán Ó hUigínn also described a British government 1995 decision to insist on a beginning to IRA decommissioning before Sinn Féin could enter political talks as “the single most serious mistake” made by any of the administrations engaged in the peace process.

On the 20th anniversary of the London Docklands bombing of February 9th, 1996, which ended the first IRA ceasefire, Mr Morrison and Mr Ó hUigínn, head of the Anglo-Irish division of the Department of Foreign Affairs from 1991 to 1997, recalled how the ceasefire was at risk in late 1995. They and a number of other senior politicians and civil servants feature on The Docklands Bomb: Executing Peace on BBC Northern Ireland at 9pm tonight. The programme, made by journalist Trevor Birney, also recalls how when US president Bill Clinton visited Northern Ireland on November 30th, 1995, the IRA already had plans in place to bomb the docklands.


Mr Morrison told Birney that shortly after Mr Clinton met Mr Adams in west Belfast on that day, that the Sinn Féin president took him and Irish Voice editor Niall O'Dowd to a house in west Belfast.

Mr Morrison said Mr Adams told them “if the peace process didn’t bear fruit quickly that the ceasefire was not going to last”. Mr O’Dowd said Mr Adams delivered the warning “in no uncertain terms”.

At that time, Sinn Féin was demanding that following from the 1994 IRA ceasefire it should be allowed into political talks on Northern Ireland's future. In Washington in March 1995, however, Sir Patrick Mayhew laid down a precondition the IRA must start decommissioning before Sinn Féin could enter talks.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times