The President of Republican Sinn Féin, Ruairi O Bradaigh, has rejected a claim that the IRA sought peace talks with the British government in early 1978.
A document from 10 Downing Street released to the British National Archives under the 30-year rule claims that the IRA sent a message through an intermediary “to the effect that it was time to talk and end the present violence”.
Files from the office of British prime minister James Callaghan describe a message, “to the effect that it was time to talk and end the present violence”.
The message is referred to in a letter to then Direct Ruler Roy Mason from a senior British official. It explains how a leading figure in Amnesty International, had been contacted by an “intermediary” from the World Council of Churches.
In a statement yesterday, Mr O Bradaigh said: “As one who as president of Sinn Féin was involved in the 1974-76 talks between representatives of the British government and the Republican movement, I am totally unaware of the purported IRA message. Not alone do I doubt the authenticity of such a message, but I believe that if it existed at all it was the work of some self-appointed ‘well-wisher’ and had no basis in fact.
“Further, the same report claims that for many Republicans ‘the truce of 1975 had also been seen as a mistake and that it had undermined Ruairi O Bradaigh’s leadership’. If this was so, how was it that I remained in the position of president of Sinn Féin for another eight years - up to 1983?”
Commenting on a separate claim in a military intelligence document released in Dublin that similar peace “feelers” were sent out in December 1976, Mr O Bradaigh said: “I do not believe that this report either had any basis in fact.
“The only development of this nature at Christmas 1976 was the commencement of the Boal-MacBride talks which sought to marry Sinn Féin’s Eire Nua proposals for a four-province federation with the Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee’s project of an independent Six-County State with a view to a joint approach to the British government for its withdrawal from Ireland.
“These discreet and confidential talks lasted until June 1977 but failed when Dr Conor Cruise-O’Brien exposed and criticised them on RTE radio.”