Former Government minister Des O'Malley has sharply criticised the RTÉ documentary and podcast series Gun Plot on the 1970 arms crisis over its "one-sided" claim that then-taoiseach Jack Lynch was "somehow involved".
Mr O’Malley, then a Fianna Fáil TD and parliamentary secretary to Mr Lynch and to minister for defence Jim Gibbons, said the producers of the series never contacted him, despite his being a witness to government decisions take at the time.
However in a statement the broadcaster said it did contact Mr O’Malley for interview. “The truth matters. And the truth is that RTÉ did make contact with Des O’Malley to ask him for an interview for the series. Des O’Malley declined to be interviewed by us and nominated his son Eoin to take part in the series in his place. The truth does matter.”
In the article Mr O’Malley said “my son, Eoin O’Malley, after speaking with me, contacted them to put another side, but he got about one minute in the over five hours of coverage that RTÉ has devoted to the topic this year”.
The crisis centres on the dismissal of two Cabinet ministers Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney for alleged involvement in a conspiracy to smuggle arms to the IRA as the Troubles erupted in the North. In the trial that followed, charges against Mr Blaney were dropped and Mr Haughey and three other alleged conspirators including Army intelligence officer Captain James Kelly were cleared in a second trial.
In an article in the Sunday Independent Mr O’Malley, who became minister for justice in 1970,and was later a founder and leader of the Progressive Democrats, said “RTÉ is obsessed with the arms crisis, and in particular a spin on the crisis that then-taoiseach Jack Lynch was somehow involved, that he knew all about the plot to import arms illegally, that he was regularly kept abreast of what was happening, and that when it was discovered he abandoned his colleagues.
“This ‘felon setter’ allegation is not new. But it is now being aired without any attempt to question its veracity.”
Mr O’Malley claimed the TV documentary “was one-sided and obviously inspired by a book by Michael Heney, a retired RTÉ producer”. Mr Heney’s book, published last year, is titled The Arms Crisis of 1970: The Plot That Never Was.
The former TD, a founder of the Progressive Democrats claimed “the evidence of all the witnesses to the Government decisions, myself included, are effectively ignored, and instead RTÉ relies on the children of the defendants.
“Each has, I’m sure, sincere and strong-held views of what happened, no doubt passed down over dinner conversations, but they cannot offer any insight as to what happened at the Cabinet table or the political climate within Fianna Fáíl at the time.”
Mr O’Malley said he had previously written about “how the principal assertion, that Lynch was somehow hedging his bets, was at odds with everything Lynch stood for both publicly and privately”.
He said the programmes “simply ignored the testimony of cabinet ministers revealed in various memoirs. The programmes spoke about ’government decisions’ as if these were established fact, ignoring that none of the ministers, including Blaney and Haughey, ever pointed to such a decision. It failed to address basic questions such as why did an allegedly government-authorised operation struggle to import arms into the State?”
Mr O’Malley asked “why a legitimate army plot would engage the services of Albert Luykx, a friend of Blaney, or Jock Haughey, Charles Haughey’s brother, or why for instance Captain James Kelly would use an IRA man, John Kelly, to help secure the arms in Dublin when the army could have been used if it was a legitimate operation.
“Why, for instance, would the Government even need arms that were not traceable? The Government only ever envisaged arms being used in such extreme circumstances that the Irish State’s involvement could have been overt.
“The RTÉ programmes never dealt with these questions. Nor did they ask, what for? What had Lynch to gain from this? His policy on the North was well known – set out in Tralee in September, 1969. He sought reunification through consent. The Government policy was his policy – and he was actively seeking to keep a lid on tensions, not to inflame them.”