An ex-IRA man has made new allegations about Gerry Adams, in which he raises questions about the Sinn Féin leader’s claim to have never been in the IRA.
Peter Rogers has alleged that Mr Adams and his Sinn Féin colleague Martin McGuinness ordered him to transport explosives to Great Britain in 1980.
Both Sinn Féin men declined interviews but their party issued a statement saying the allegations were untrue.
Firstly, whilst the allegations may be new to the BBC, and they have interviewed Peter Rogers here, the claims emerged for the first time earlier this year. At the start of February, around the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Wexford, Peter Rogers spoke to the media [9 Feb 2014] about the events leading up to the murder of Detective Garda Seamus Quaid in Wexford in 1980 for the first time.
[Peter Rogers] told the Sunday Independent last night that he felt forced to speak out because of what he saw as the insensitivity of holding the Sinn Fein ard fheis at the Wexford Opera House, where a plaque commemorating Garda Quaid had been erected in 2008 on the anniversary of his murder. Garda Quaid’s family asked for the plaque to be removed in advance of the ard fheis.
As for the Sinn Féin response, the Irish Times report has a fuller quote.
Sinn Fein said today that Mr Rogers’s claims were untrue. “There is no truth in these allegations. Gerry Adams has already publicly refuted these claims,” said a spokesman.
[Publicly refuted?! – Ed] Apparently… Fortunately, there is an Irish Independent report, updated 2 March 2014, which gives more details of the actualité.
Sinn Fein refused to respond to a series of detailed questions arising out of Peter Rogers’s claims over the past three weeks.
Last Tuesday morning the Sunday Independent approached Gerry Adams – who has denied ever being a member of the IRA – on the plinth of Leinster House as he concluded a press conference over the controversy on claims made by garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe in relation to An Garda Siochana.
When asked to respond to the claim that he and Martin McGuinness met with Rogers two days before Det Gda Quaid’s murder, Mr Adams said: “I have no recollection of that whatsoever.”
When it was put to Mr Adams that he had given Rogers the order to transport those explosives, he replied: “That’s not true.” When the question was put to the Sinn Fein president again, he repeated: “That’s not true.”
At that point, Mr Adams brought the exchange to an abrupt end and went inside Leinster House.
Under the regulations set down by the House of the Oireachtas, members of the media are specifically prohibited from conducting or attempting to conduct interviews with politicians inside Leinster House without first obtaining permission.
We were reminded by Sinn Fein party press officers of this rule as we attempted to pursue him through the door of the Leinster House 2000 annexe which houses the offices of TDs and senators.
Repeated efforts by the Sunday Independent to elicit a response from Martin McGuinness in relation to Mr Rogers’ claims through contacts with his private office at Stormont proved to be unsuccessful.
Mr Rogers, now 69 years old, is a former IRA prisoner who escaped from the Maidstone Prison Ship in 1972.
Eight years later, he was jailed in the Republic of Ireland for the IRA murder of a Garda (police) officer.
Detective Garda Seamus Quaid was shot and killed after his police patrol stopped a vehicle in County Wexford on 13 October 1980. Another officer was injured in the attack.
[Peter Rogers] was originally sentenced to death but it was commuted to a 40-year jail term for capital murder.
Nine years into his sentence, which he served in Portlaoise prison, County Laois, Mr Rogers left the republican movement and the republican wing of the jail.
He was later released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
He wrote letters of apology to the families of Garda Quaid and his injured colleague, but his apologies were not accepted.
And the details of the alleged meeting with Adams and McGuinness
At the time of the shooting, Rogers says he had been working as a “logistics” man for the IRA, moving weapons and “personnel” between Rosslare, Wales and France.
He worked for a while on the Brittany ferry before setting up his own parcel delivery service, partly as a cover for his IRA activities.
In October 1980, he became concerned that explosives he was ordered to transport to England for a bombing campaign were in a dangerous state. After he refused to move the explosives because of his concerns, Rogers says he was ordered to come to Dublin, where he met with Adams and McGuinness.
Rogers told the Sunday Independent: “I was summonsed to Dublin as to find out why there was a delay in moving stuff. It was the stuff that I was caught with.
“I was extremely unhappy about it. The explosives was weeping and there was a heavy smell of marzipan off it. You daren’t touch it, but your hands were soaking wet with the nitroglycerine coming off it. It was dangerous, highly dangerous.
“I didn’t want to move it for the simple reason I was afraid, number one, of losing the route into England and I was also afraid that if it was compromised that the active service unit might have been caught in England.
“It was supposed to have been gone on a couple of occasions but different circumstances didn’t allow for it and one of the main ones was the condition the explosives was in.” During the Seventies almost 100 IRA members were killed while moving or making bombs, and Rogers would have been well aware of the dangers.
Rogers said he was summoned to meet Adams and McGuinness because “they were in charge of operations”.
He recalled: “It was the afternoon. There was a rugby match going on at the time. It was October. I let them know I wasn’t happy. The reason that the stuff hadn’t been moved before then was that I wasn’t happy with the condition of it and I was looking for it to be replaced.
“They stepped back from me and they had a bit of a conflab and I was out of earshot. Then they came back and said it wasn’t feasible to get any new stuff.”
And from the new BBC report
Mr Rogers has claimed that during the same year as Garda Quaid’s murder, he was summoned to a meeting in Dublin with Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness, because of his reluctance to move explosives to England for a bombing campaign.
He had complained that the liquid explosives were “unstable” and feared he would either be killed in a premature explosion or caught by police in possession of the substance.
“When I met with them, Gerry wanted to know what the delay was,” Mr Rogers told the BBC.
He claimed that Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness listened to his concerns and held a brief conversation out of his earshot, before coming back to him with a decision.
“Gerry said ‘look Peter, we can’t replace that explosive, you will have to go with what you have and as soon as you can get it across, the better’, so as far as I was concerned, I was given a direct order,” Mr Rogers said.
[Does the NI deputy First Minister have a better recollection than the Sinn Féin president? – Ed] Probably not…
Adds Here’s Shane Harrison’s BBC Newsline report
And As Ed Moloney points out
There is an intriguing but unexplained aspect to the Peter Rogers story and it is that his disenchantment with the Provo leadership appears to be fairly recent. In 2002 he gave two lengthy interviews about the Maidstone escape with that most leadership-friendly of figures, Jim Gibney for what was still called An Phoblacht-Republican News which you can read here and here. The falling out seems to happened after this but exactly why is not clear.
The 2002 interviews with Jim Gibney in An Phoblacht-Republican News are even more intriguing given that, by his own admission, Peter Rogers left the republican movement and the republican wing of Portlaoise prison nine years into his sentence. He spent the next nine years serving time with, as he has put it, “ODCs – ordinary decent criminals”, before his early release on licence in 1998.
But then again, until February this year, he hadn’t spoken to the media about the events in 1980…