q: You went to Belfast after August 1969. What did you say to people
a: I didn't want to see a split in Belfast, but it was too late.
Some of the staff in Belfast were sympath[etic] to Goldings proposals and so
that was too late.
q: Why did the IRA split?
a: One ... at least three, four ...
a: Reasons. One was political, and the other was military, they had
a: Ideological and also Republicans want to abolish Stormont.
q: At the Sinn Fein national conference on the 10th of January
1970, you took the microphone from Goulding.
a: No, no.
q: Tell me what happened there, what did you do?
a: I walked to the microphone, and said, "I pledge my allegiance to the
provisional IRA." These were people who tied themselves to their Irish
Republican Army. Then I said, "Now ... it's time to go. Go." And we did.
q: How many left with you?
a: About 40% more.
q: And that's how the provisional IRA was born.
a: Born, no, that's Sinn Fein. Three weeks before the IRA.
q: Right, I understand. How did you get weapons in those early
a: We sent orders to all units in the south. I want 90%
of your weapons and money for the units in the north ... and
we had no training courses, HQ and everything like that.
q: What was your strategy when the provisional IRA was born?
a: First, defense for the summer. All weapons and ammunition
and equipment for Belfast, Derry and the other places, because the summer is
always trouble. So we thought, right and plenty of training, and
reorganization, that's it.
q: So at the very beginning your strategy was purely defensive.
a: Yes. Yes.
q: When did you turn to offensive action?
a: After internment. Before, anything else was a retaliation, because
the British army was bad to the people. So we thought retaliatory action
and sabotage. But after internment we went to all offensive, all offensive
q: But wasn't the killing of Gunner Curtis, the first soldier to die,
an offensive action?
a: No. It was on retaliation for the bad treatment of British troops
q: What was the significance of the shooting of Gunner Curtis, the
first soldier to die?
a: One, volunteers for ...
q: But what was the significance of the fact that a British soldier
had been killed, he was the first soldier to die in the conflict, in the recent
conflict, what was the significance of that?
a: The British people say if you stay in Ireland there's a price to
q: And what was the price?
a: More soldiers go back in coffins unless the pressure the
government to right thing about Ireland.
q: At the beginning of 1972.
q: What was the state of the IRA?
a: Good now. When 1972 good, very good, I think, the best and
better IRA for fifty years, more men, ammunition equipment and very, very good
morale. And we reorganized everything.
q: At the beginning of 1972 did you think you were winning?
a: Yes. But there was a report that the British army said we give us
a month in Belfast, one Derry, and then two months in the border, its over.
Well, they were wrong.
q: Why did you want Gerry Adams released from internment?
a: He was a potential leader. Good thinker. And good in the national
q: What was his role at the time?
q: What was he before he was a prisoner?
a: He was in leadership ... Belfast.
q: The IRA leadership in Belfast.
a: In Republican movement.
q: But he was IRA Belfast, wasn't he?
a: Well ...
q: What did you do when Gerry Adams came out of internment?
a: Well, I sent a messenger from Derry and explaining the thing, then
that night I rang to Gerry and I said "Oh I'm very, very ... surprised, ...
and you owe me one.
q: And what did he say?
a: He says, No, I tell 'em get, collect and in a couple of days and
leave, right. His wife.
q: Yes. Just going back to the press conference that you gave.
q: At the time you were the most wanted man in Ireland.
q: Because you were the chief of staff in the provisional IRA, how
did you get into Derry without being arrested?
a: They scout out the roads, and escort, right.
q: Were you in disguise?
a: Yes. Yes. And O'Connell was as well ... we had a
driver and two others and another car.
q: What was your disguise?
a: Oh, an awful mustache and hair, different way and something else.
q: And you got through.
a: Yes. And once I went to Derry, to the funeral, Sean Keenan's son
was killed. And they advice was too much activity the British army in their
droves, so I said, "You take me over the fields in Derry." We did.
q: How did you decide who should go with you to meet Mr.
a: Well ... one Seamus Toomey. O'Connell, Martin McGuinness, and
myself and Adams from the prisoners.
q: Ivor Bell.
a: Yes. ... And I said and so that's it, .... I want this an IRA ...
q: All were IRA?
a: Yes. Not been, not Sinn Fein, but IRA.
q: All of them?
q: Including Martin McGuinness?
a: Oh yes.
q: Including Gerry Adams.
a: All of them.
q: When you get to Cheyne Walk, and you meet Mr. Whitelaw.
q: What do you say?
a: Well he come to me and said, "Mr. MacStiofain, how do you do?" I
[thought] this guy has done his homework because he pronounced my name perfect. I
said, "I'm OK, now this is my friend Seamus Toomey, .... O'Connell, Martin
McGuinness, Adams, Bell." So he said, "Oh, Mr. O'Connell, perhaps you want to
sit down to me." [He] said "No, we sit down as group."
q: You didn't want to be split, separated?
a: No, no. And a long, a line of us right.
q: Were you offered anything to drink?
a: Water. Yes, he said, "Want a drink?" I said, "No. No." So
he said, "I think I will begin." He was speak[ing] about five minutes and nothing he
said, no interest to us. So I said, "I have a statement from the Irish Republican
Army, I will read." And part of the statement was we call on the British
government to publicly acknowledge the right to the Irish people, act in one
unit to decide the future of Ireland. Now then Whitelaw said, "There's
confusion about that, difficulties."
a: Yes. "But we have a constitution guarantee for the unionists," I
said. "It's a fact that one act of parliament can put back the other one." He said,
"Oh that's a fact of parliamentary life." So then we would talk about the
incident in ... nationalist people in rural ...
a: Right, and Whitelaw said, "Oh, British troops will never fire on
civilians." So I said, "Martin, you have something to say?" "Yes, Mr. Whitelaw, I
saw your troops, paras, kill people in Derry, they were unarmed civilians." So I
said and others. So no reply from Whitelaw and the staff much
muttering, "No capital alliance."
q: What did you say about British withdrawal?
a: We want a couple of years, four years ... to withdraw.
q: I think you said you wanted a British military withdrawal by the
first of January 1975. What did you say?
a: We want the withdrawal first of January 1975.
q: Extend ...
a: Extend yes.
q: How far were you prepared to extend the 1975?
a: ... that was negotiations.
q: Were you talking about a British military withdrawal, in other
words, demanding that Britain withdraw her troops back to the rest of the
a: Yes, yes.
q: Or were you talking about a total British military and political
withdrawal, a total withdrawal?
a: Well, political, yes, as well. Yes. Because no, we want all
military and political withdrawal.
q: By 1975?
q: But that was just hopelessly unrealistic.
a: Maybe, maybe.
q: But you must have known that.
a: That was starters.
q: The starting point.
a: Yes. Yes.
q: How long did the meeting last?
a: The two breaks, about an hour, one hour.
q: What did you say when the meeting was over, what did you say
amongst each other?
a: Then we discussed it ourselves, said "We'll give them three
days for an answer."
q: That wasn't very long.
a: No. But we said, "Give them a week at the most, but start
q: You didn't really expect Mr. Whitelaw, on behalf of the British
government, to come back within three days or a week and say, "OK, we agree, we're
a: No, but you see, if he first said, "No," [we] were [to] give them
more time ... another couple of days, then we said, "One week,"
because I knew that a Cabinet meeting on the Thursday, so I said, "Whitelaw, OK,
that's it, but if there was in the chance to more negotiations right, we
can expand that." But I don't think they were interested.
q: What was the atmosphere like on the flight going back?
a: Steele come to me and said, "Don't tell me you're not starting,
your stupid campaign again." So I said, "Well, it's up to you people. We
never worried about the casualties, we've more casualties in Germany with
accidents ... you lost twenty men in two weeks in here, in
q: That was the two weeks leading up to the cease-fire?
a: Yes, yes.
q: What did he say to that?
a: "You know what they mean." And I said, "Well that's about the troops."
q: Did you ever hear back from the British?
a: No. No.
q: But shouldn't you have given the truce longer? Two days isn't
a: But the British and the UDA broke the bloody truce.
q: Well the truce was broken by Seamus Toomey ... leading that
cavalcade down Lundadoon Avenue and forcing the army lines.
a: No, that is wrong.
q: It was there. I saw it.
a: No ... but I had people I respect there that told you that that's
not so. No, that the UDA went into break the truce and the British army in
Belfast the British general, brigadier they want to break the truce. No, they,
lots of incidents as well in Belfast, Portadown and ... the truce had gone by
q: When the truce was over.
q: What was your strategy, what did you decide to do as chief of
a: Well, the leadership first of all units in the north were
instructions to get back to operations. And I said the campaign will be
q: Is intensified the word you're looking for?
a: Yes. OK.
q: After the truce had ended, what was your strategy as chief of
staff of the provisional IRA?
a: Well the leadership had an order to all units in the north, get
back into offensive action and we must get intensify the campaign.
q: Part of that intensified campaign was the planting of over twenty
bombs in Belfast on what was known as Bloody Friday, was that part of the
a: It was, 22 in Belfast and 14 other parts right, and
only two had civilian casualties, and the every bomb had three warnings and the
British government and the British army they not give the warnings.
q: Those bombs planted on that day, on Bloody Friday, killed eleven
people, eleven civilians.
a: No, no, nine. Nine.
q: Well nine or eleven, nine innocent people died.
a: No. Nine people were killed then. Two British army, two RUC, one a
known RU and a UDA. But there were four innocent people and we regretted all of
them. The others were legitimate targets.
q: Well, in the eyes of most British people, nobody is a legitimate
target, even if you say they were legitimate targets four civilians were
a: They were, yes, and we regretted all of them, but the blame was the
people who deliberately not given the warnings to the public.
q: The blame rested with those people, your people the IRA who
planted the bombs.
a: No, I don't agree.
q: You don't plant the bombs, people don't die.
a: Oh, well, but if the British government has persistent his policies
to the north of Ireland, then you get resistance and I'm sure if the same
situation was England, some of your friends would resist it.
q: Did you ever discuss taking the campaign to England?
a: Yes. Yes. We have and there was planned an operation to sabotage the
factory [that] makes CS gas in 1970, but I then the OC was bad in security and four
people were arrested. Right. So then another year an operation was
organized for shooting a high ranking officer, who was not, was in the north.
But then we had two operations planned for the end of 72, and I was arrested so
I don't know what happened, but yes.
q: Were you aware of the planning of the Old Bailey bombs before you
a: No, no. ... that was my one month, ... the end of
q: Why did you want to take the campaign to England?
a: To make sure that the establishment would see that they must pay
dearly for the north of Ireland.
q: Their presence in the north of Ireland.
a: And the policies and the prison.
q: What was your reaction when you heard that Sinn Fein had rejected
abstentionism in 1986?
a: I was very, very disappointed, very disappointed. And that was one
of the biggest mistakes that Adams made and so yes.
q: Why do you say that?
a: The government in Dublin is typical neo-colonial government ...
there's no real policy about the north. And saying from the people, whole
people here ... went into politics to advance the class interest, his own
q: What was your reaction to the IRA's declaration of its cessation
in August '94?
a: I was pleased. Four years before I suggested to the IRA leadership
that something like that to suspend offensive action and change the tactics.
q: Do you think the war is over?
a: No. No, I do not. Because Major and the unionists have never taken
the peace process seriously