Gerry Adams was still on IRA army council in 1994 – UK security adviser

Adviser also said ‘Slab’ Murphy had expressed reservations about ending violence

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams leaving Westminster Hall in London, 2001. Photograph: Peter J Jordan/PA Photo

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was a member of the IRA army council at the time it announced its historic ceasefire in August 1994, according to a senior adviser to the British government on security and intelligence.

Paul Lever, a senior diplomat with responsibility for security and intelligence in the Cabinet Office at Downing Street, also said that three of the seven-member army council, particularly Thomas “Slab” Murphy, expressed reservations about bringing the campaign of violence to a halt.

Lever met in London with the Irish ambassador Joseph Small, who said he gave the impression he was speaking with a good deal of inside information.

“Lever said that Murphy was the member of the seven-man IRA army council who showed most reluctance in relation to the statement of 31 August although he did not dissent in the end,” Small wrote in a communication in October 1994 to the Department of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Dublin.


“Another one or two may have had reservations although they too went along with the decision.”

The British diplomat was not an admirer of Adams, according to Small’s account of the meeting.

“Turning to Gerry Adams, it was quite clear that Lever shares the general hatred of the man so evident in Britain’s governing circles.”

Lever drew Small’s attention to an article in a UK media publication that week. “One might observe, in parentheses, that the Spectator article headed ‘Cold-Blooded Killer’ comes at a convenient time for the British government, given the fact that Adams is currently on a high-profile visit to the United States. One is left with the suspicion that the article itself, as well as some of its content, was officially inspired.”

Profound ignorance

Lever told Small that many people in Britain were perplexed at the sight of US senator Ted Kennedy, who lost two brothers to violence, going to Boston airport to greet Adams.

A low-key meeting in Kennedy’s office would be understandable, he said, but not the warm greeting at the airport in front of the TV cameras.

The British diplomat told the Irish ambassador there was a profound ignorance of Northern Ireland in the United States, adding significantly that he understood the American consulate in Belfast was “good”.

“By which he presumably meant that it was sympathetic to the British point of view,” observed Small.

In previously declassified papers, a former priest in Adams's Ballymurphy neighbourhood said the Sinn Féin leader was "at most No 3" on the IRA army council but his influence on it was "declining" by 1987.

According to former Provisional IRA member Anthony McIntyre, "Gerry Adams's position on the army council remained for the most part secure, up until 2005 when the IRA announced an end to its war".

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

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Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times