The promise that the IRA attacks on British soldiers in Germany would end has helped the Irish government secure £ 8 billion from the EU, according to the author of a new book.
aoiseach Albert Reynolds is said to have secured key backing for his funding offer from German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on the grounds that he would use his influence with the Provisions to prevent soldiers overseas from being targeted.
The startling claim is made in a biography of Reynolds by former Fianna Fail minister and journalist-turned-businessman Conor Lenihan.
The author, who reveals his own secret intermediary role in the pre-IRA ceasefire measures, said Reynolds believed the provisionals were a threat to the Southern state.
He also says their bombing of the City of London was “very effective in bringing the British to the negotiating table.”
Lenihan describes the events of the 1992 European Council summit in Edinburgh, when Reynolds launched his ambitious fundraising offer.
“Helmut Kohl was the most influential political leader there,” he says.
“He told Reynolds he had a problem he needed to solve.
“British troops stationed in Germany were under attack and he asked the Taoiseach if he could help stop him by talking to the right people.
“Kohl and British Prime Minister John Major were deeply concerned and embarrassed by the attacks. Kohl told Reynolds he would support her request for funds if he could help out.
Lenihan says the then Taoiseach telephoned his old friend, Derryman Noel Gallagher, who was an indirect link between the IRA and the British. Coincidentally, Gallgher was ten kilometers from Edinburgh to buy horses.
“Reynolds brought Gallagher to meet Helmut Kohl,” says the author. “Gallagher had actually organized meetings in Duisburg, Germany between prominent nationalists and trade unionists in 1988.
“Gallagher told me that Kohl was impressed with Reynolds’ promise to help end the IRA attacks.
“The German Chancellor actually advised the Taoiseach that instead of seeking £ 6bn in funding he should ask for £ 8bn. Reynolds did and got the money. This has enormously strengthened its internal position within Fianna Fail.
The book details the Derry businessman’s long history as a liaison between the IRA and the British.
“Noel Gallagher vigorously disputes the British representation of continued contact over the years as being sporadic,” Lenihan said.
“He told me that from 1972 there were meetings between the two parties about every 18 months and sometimes a lot more than that.
“Gallagher received as a gift a painting by Margaret Thatcher and letters from Secretary of State Peter Brooke. He met John Major, Tony Blair and many others. It was not an irregular contact, it was very structured.
Lenihan says IRA arms shipments from Libya in the mid-1980s – which included Semtex, rocket launchers and machine guns with armor-piercing bullets – meant he was fair to southern politicians to pursue a peace initiative.
“From my own conversations with the Special Branch, it was clear that these weapons meant that the IRA posed a distinct threat to the security of the Republic,” he said.
“If the fifth and final Libyan cargo had been landed, it would have meant that the IRA was better equipped and better endowed than the official state army.
“It would have tipped the scales in favor of the IRA, which had already developed a sophisticated engineering department, a supply line and a large financial operation that funded its efforts.
“Reynolds and my late father Brian firmly believed in the need to seek peace, if only to avoid repercussions on the stability of the Republic in the event that the balance tipped in the wrong direction in favor of what seemed to be. almost being a ‘state within a state’. . “
Lenihan says some “propagandists” suggested that the IRA asked for peace only because it faced defeat.
“Neither Special Branch’s nor Reynolds’ conventional safety assessment supported such a view,” he insists.
The author describes the IRA rocket attack in 1991 on Downing Street and the bombing of the Baltic Exchange the following year.
He quotes former IRA commander Sean ‘Spike’ Murray, who told him, “If you know you’re going into negotiations, you’ve got to use your muscles. Hitting the UK financial sector sent a message. You are not dealing with a defeated army.
Lenihan recalls a series of IRA mortar attacks on Heathrow Airport over five days in March 1994. None of the projectiles exploded: “I was rather intrigued by the audacity of the ‘together and I asked an intermediary contact what the IRA was doing.
“I was told that the British had asked for some form of validation that the Sinn Fein leadership could in fact turn IRA attacks on and off. The mortars were failures.
Lenihan reveals that in 1992, while working for Dublin radio station 98FM, he was “co-opted by Reynolds as an intermediary in the peace process between himself and paramilitary figures.”
He says: “I came into this role while working as a political journalist at Leinster House. It started with the fact that I was carrying messages from different players and was born from the efforts of my father. “
Lenihan was amazed at the time and effort Reynolds put into the project. He was “like a human sponge when it came to processing information and insight.”
The author says: “He called me into his office, impassive, but encouraged me to speak. He had that posture and focus that was downloading information to you.
Lenihan denies that his own secret role conflicts with his journalistic role: “I separated the two roles. I was just a messenger, not an influencer.
“There were members of the clergy who also relayed messages and this did not compromise the integrity of their clerical duties. They stepped out of a role and then came back to it. I played a minor role anyway, I was just a carrier pigeon.
Lenihan got the first broadcast interview with Gerry Adams after the Republic’s Article 31 broadcast ban was lifted in January 1994.
He recalls speculation as to who among “the star cast of RTE” was going to land the interview and how surprising it was to other media that “a reporter from a lesser-known commercial station was picked “.
Lenihan notes Reynolds’ behind-the-scenes discussions with loyalist paramilitaries: “He was horrified that the British weren’t doing any outreach with them.
“He made contact to avoid the development of a vacuum and a potential backlash after the IRA ceasefire. He built a very strong relationship with them based on trust.
“Shortly after the IRA ceasefire, I was aware of the date of the Loyalist cessation which came six weeks later.
“With the help of intermediaries working with the Taoiseach, meetings were held between the UVF and members of the IRA army council to allay the anxieties and fears of loyalists.”
Regarding the current Stormont crisis, Lenihan says, “Reynolds liked to paraphrase the quote from WB Yeats ‘Peace is slowly falling.’
“Looking north these days, it seems the reconciliation is waning even more slowly.”
Albert Reynolds: Risktaker For Peace, Merrion Press, £ 19.99