Stasi's IRA files suggest CIA link

 

EAST Germany's intelligence service believed that Noraid arms shipments to the IRA were controlled by the US Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents seen by The Irish Times in Berlin.

A 21-page analysis of the IRA by the counter terrorism branch of the Stasi dated October 20th, 1986, suggests the East Germans viewed the IRA bombing campaign against British army targets in West Germany as a potential threat to their own security.

Using information obtained from agents within West German, terrorist organisations as well as West German double agents, the" Stasi concluded the IRA links with European terrorists were insignificant. But they were convinced that arms were supplied from the US with the CIA's knowledge.

"The IRA is supported especially by a so-called Northern Aid - Noraid - organisation in the USA. According to available knowledge, the arms deals and shipment from the USA to Northern Ireland are controlled and supervised by the CIA," the report says.

No further information is offered to support the charge, which is repeated in almost every subsequent Stasi report on the IRA, the last of which was written in September 1989, less than two months before the Berlin Wall crumbled. But the documents refer to a court case in 1983 when the FBI arrested CIA agents during an investigation of a Noraid weapons shipment.

The Stasi regarded the IRA's US link as more important than any contacts with German terrorists. The report suggests the IRA was reluctant to pool its resources with other groups and it records that no Irish representative was present at a meeting of European terrorist groups in Frankfurt in January 1986.

Although the Stasi expected an escalation of IRA attacks on British military personnel in West Germany, they predicted there would be no increase in co-operation with German terrorists.

The bombing campaign in West Germany appears to have been the chief cause of the Stasi's sudden interest in the IRA. When a senior British intelligence officer visited Berlin a month after the Wall fell, the Stasi's counter-intelligence chief told him there had never been any East German contacts with the IRA.

These documents appear to confirm that statement, and the 1986 report concludes that the IRA "has thus far developed no hostile plans or intentions against the GDR and has not misused our territory [and] has had no contact with people from the GDR."

The report recommends that the Stasi maintain a close watch on the IRA, especially insofar as its plans presented "moments of danger" to East Germany.

The Stasi produced numerous reports on the IRA over the next three years, some of which contain detailed information about the organisation's activities and command structure.

The IRA file includes a detailed history of the organisation from 1921 onwards and a list of IRA attacks since 1980. Support groups such as the National H Blocks committee and the Relatives Action Committee are described and their leading figures named.

One appendix provides potted biographies of nine "supergrass" informers and another lists escaped IRA prisoners.

Much of the information is drawn from western newspapers, but intelligence sources provided much of the detail. Thus, a Stasi agent within the West German embassy in the Netherlands passed on a list of IRA weapons found by the Dutch authorities, complete with serial numbers.

Referring to the confiscation of £175 million from a bank of Ireland account in 1985, the documents identify an Austrian goldsmith as the IRA's contact for a weapons deal for which the money was to be used. Information on his movements came from a Stasi mole in the Austrian Interior Ministry.

The INLA is described as having close links with the IRA, an observation that may be based on co-operation between the two groups during the 1981 hunger- strikes. But the Stasi was clearly not informed about links between Irish paramilitaries and the Libyan government.

In 1984 the western media reported on what appeared to be information from opposing intelligence services, that the INLA's source of money and weapons was in the Middle East. This was a reference to Libya's attitude to terrorism and suggested that fighters from the IRA and INLA, as well as members of Protestant paramilitaries, were trained in camps there.

The Stasi regarded the Ulster Defence Association as the most dangerous paramilitary organisation on the loyalist side, along with "Ulster Ecclesia Militans" which is described as "the paramilitary defence force of the Free Presbyterian Church".

The tone of the documents is decidedly cool, betraying little sympathy for the IRA or its campaign "for Christian Socialism without Socialists or Communists", as one Stasi report puts it. Most of the reports are sober and rigorous.

The East Germans regarded the IRA as a formidable organisation and believed the British authorities were losing control of the situation in Northern Ireland.

By September 25th, 1989, the East German authorities were still worried about the IRA campaign in West Germany and demanded more information from the Stasi. For the first time, agents were to be planted among Irish immigrants in West Germany to report on potential IRA recruits. The agents were never put in place because, six weeks later, the Berlin Wall fell.