WikiLeaks: Sinn Fein chief Gerry Adams critical of Shaun Woodward over on-the-runs
Gerry Adams privately accused former Secretary of State Shaun Woodward of failing to deliver on his promises, a leaked diplomatic cable reveals.
The Sinn Fein president made the remarks as he briefed a senior US official on the “absurd” situation of former IRA suspects who remain on-the-run. He claimed Mr Woodward “promises everything and delivers nothing”.
The case of Rita O’Hare, still on-the-run almost 40 years after absconding while on bail for an attempted murder charge, was specifically mentioned.
However, Mr Adams did single out the PSNI for praise, highlighting the work police had done in clearing the names of others who later returned home.
The issue was raised during conversations between Mr Adams, Martin McGuinness and outgoing Special Envoy Paula Dobriansky in January 2009.
According to the cable, Sinn Fein reported mixed success after pressing UK government officials regarding on-the-runs.
“McGuinness praised Conservative Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson as having a very progressive attitude on the issue of ex-prisoners,” it states.
“When asked about obtaining assistance from Woodward, Adams said that he had given up on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland assisting with this issue, commenting that Woodward ‘promises everything and delivers nothing’.”
The dispatch, dated January 13, 2009, details conversations Ms Dobriansky held with political leaders before her departure.
The so-called on-the-runs are individuals charged or suspected of involvement in terrorist crimes, who risk being arrested if they return to Northern Ireland.
Mr Adams highlighted the case of Ms O’Hare, who is based in Dublin. She was arrested in 1972 for the attempted murder of a soldier in Belfast, but fled across the border when she was released on bail. Because of an outstanding arrest warrant, she has not returned to the UK and was unable to attend her parents’ funerals.
“Adams said [the] situation was absurd since if O’Hare were to win an elected position in Northern Ireland, she likely would be free to return without fear of arrest,” the cable states.
“Adams and McGuinness provided further examples of problems facing former IRA members, including cases where former prisoners were unable to obtain teaching positions or even obtain a taxi license.” The cable added: “Adams did praise the work the PSNI has done in clearing names of some persons, allowing them to return home.”
The on-the-runs issue was also later raised in a confidential cable written by the Consul General in Belfast, Susan Elliott.
It reports on a meeting involving Ms Elliott and Mr Adams.
“Adams was extremely critical of the UK government’s Northern Ireland Office (NIO), which he said was not providing UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Woodward with good advice.
“Adams was particularly concerned about the fate of former IRA members who have pending criminal charges and cannot return to the UK (SF’s US Representative Rita O’Hare is one of these ‘on the runs.’).