Respected priest ‘wrote speeches for Gerry Adams’

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A PRIEST was thought to be writing speeches for Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams during the early 1980s, newly-released records show.

During a particularly vicious phase of the Troubles, SDLP MP Seamus Mallon claimed Mr Adams’s speeches were not being penned by him.

In Irish Government documents released under the 30-year rule, Mr Mallon said he thought a respected Belfast priest, Father Des Wilson, was the brains behind the republican leader’s speeches.

The State papers show the unsubstantiated claim was carried back to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin in late 1983 following one of its fact-finding missions in the north.

Diplomat Daithi O Ceallaigh wrote: “He referred on a number of occasions to the speeches made by Adams in recent times which he thought were very well written. He claimed that Adams could not himself write such speeches and said it was his guess that they were being drafted by Fr Des Wilson.”

Mr Adams has spoken highly of Fr Wilson, crediting him as a key facilitator in ending inter-republican disputes in the 1970s and also helping to open dialogue with loyalist paramilitaries.

State papers also show the Irish government tried to get then US Vice President George Bush involved in tackling the Troubles by warning the Soviet Union would exploit growing IRA support.

Records reveal that ahead of a one-day visit to Dublin in 1983, officials said then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald should use the Soviet threat as a way of getting support from the US.

The advice was offered amid planning for the arrival but White House aides were less preoccupied with the Northern Ireland question and more on arrangements for a “spontaneous meet-the-people” stop for Mr Bush in a pub.

Advisers wrote: “It is suggested that the Taoiseach and the Minister rather than stressing the fact that Sinn Fein made little or no gains in the recent election, should on the other hand emphasise the present serious level of support and the opportunities which this creates for subversion and indeed outside (Soviet) exploitation.”

The steering note in files from the Department of Foreign Affairs said that Dublin felt the British Government was not taking the Northern Ireland question seriously.

Officials told the Taoiseach to warn Vice President Bush that Sinn Fein was becoming an increasing left wing party and that nationalists were feeling increasingly alienated from the political process in Northern Ireland.

Papers also reveal Democratic Unionist Ian Paisley tried to get around being barred from the US by asking the United Nations secretary general for an interview.

The former Northern Ireland first minister had a visa revoked three times in 1981 and 1982 as he attempted to get into the US and put the unionist version of the Troubles across.

At the time, the US state department said the decision to stop Mr Paisley at the border was based on his “near advocacy of violence”.

But according to documents released by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, diplomats were told privately that it was more about him personally than his policies.

Official Jimmy Sharkey warned officials in Dublin in early 1981 not to intervene in any visa row for fear of being seen to silence the DUP chief.

He wrote: “For us to try and block his admission would only enhance his publicity... there would be dangers of a highly damaging misrepresentation if we were to move.

“We would feel that Paisley would have the elementary good sense to keep the Pope out of his remarks when in the USA and to present a political message, however hardline.”

In January 1982, Mr Paisley attempted to flank America’s immigration chiefs by sending a telegram to UN secretary general Javier Perez de Cuellar seeking an interview.

The prospect of the UN being dragged into the Northern Ireland question greatly exercised British diplomats, as one Irish official wrote: “The UK Permanent Representative was disturbed by the possibility of the NI issue being raised at the UN and the likelihood that other groups would follow Paisley’s lead.”

Mr Paisley went to Canada in January 1982 while his wife Eileen went to the US with a unionist delegation.