The son of two of Belfast’s leading Irish republican families, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams claims he never joined the Irish Republican Army.
Most informed commentators think he is a liar.
Senior political, security and media figures, including the Minister for Justice in the Republic of Ireland assert that, from the 1970s until mid-2005, Adams is alleged to have been a member of the Provisional IRA’s governing army council
In 2002, Marion Price, convicted for being part of a bomb team that attacked London in March 1973, said in public that Gerry Adams was “my commanding officer” at that time.
In early 1977, Adams went to the home of a Belfast journalist who lived near Turf Lodge and worked for the BBC Spotlight program. He presented himself as representing the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional IRA.
He was arrested after the La Mon Restaurant Bombing in February 1978 and was charged with IRA membership. Adams denied the membership charge, threatened to sue reporters who repeated the charge, and applied for bail. The case went to court but the charges were dismissed. Many senior Republicans at that time were surprised by Adams’s denial of membership, for they had usually taken the approach of offering no comment to such a charge. In this fashion, they offered no information and did not contribute to speculation (see for example pp. 265-66 in Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, The Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary}.
In 1980, an undercover Special Branch officer followed Adams across the border during an investigation into an IRA counterfeiting operation.
Sean O’Callaghan, a former IRA member, Garda and MI5 informer from County Kerry, has claimed he spoke to Adams at IRA meetings in the 1980s. He states that Adams was a battalion quarter-master responsible for weapons, then the age of 22 Adams became Officer Commanding of the Second Battalion, Belfast Brigade IRA.
On 20 February 2005, Irish Minister for Justice Michael McDowell publicly named Adams as a member of the seven-man ruling IRA army council during a radio interview.
According to the British government, he has been a member for over 20 years, although he has never been convicted of IRA membership and continues to deny it. In July, McDowell said that, according to senior police sources, three Sinn Féin leaders, including Adams, had stepped down from the IRA command in a prelude to a peace move. Adams denied the report. “We can’t stand down from a body of which we were not members”, he said.
In Memoirs of a Revolutionary, the autobiography of Seán Mac Stíofáin, Provisional IRA Chief of Staff during 1969-72, Adams is described as commander of the Belfast Brigade (albeit only in the caption of a photograph).