By Jack Holland
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams’s trip to Cuba, scheduled for some time this month, has once more brought to the forefront the republican movement’s involvement in South America matters. A senior aide to the House Committee on International Relations expressed surprise that Adams still planned to go ahead with his visit in view of recent findings that Cuba is used by the Colombian narco-terrorist group FARC to treat its wounded members in its long struggle to overthrow the U.S.-backed Colombian government.
“People here are shaking their heads,” he said.
The committee is currently conducting an inquiry into allegations of links between FARC and the IRA with a view to holding hearings. The aide said that if a hearing is held in the spring, there is a “possibility” that the CIA would be called to testify. Admitting that this would be unusual, he said that the agency might be asked to “brief” the committee on what it knows about the allegations that the IRA has had a four-year connection to the Colombian group, during which time, sources say, some 30 high-ranking IRA members have visited Colombia. These have allegedly included members of the IRA’s General Headquarters staff, such as Brian Keenan and Padraig Wilson, and a high-ranking member who is a close relative of Adams.
On Sunday, the London Observer quoted Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt, who is heading the committee’s inquiry, and recently returned from Cuba, as saying that new evidence has been uncovered. However, the congressman told the Echo: “There is new information as a result of the Cuba trip, but it’s important to evaluate it, corroborate it, and vet it.”
Delahunt refused to say whether the new information strengthen or weakened the allegations concerning PIRA and FARC.
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Adams is planning to go to Cuba to unveil a memorial to the 1981 hunger strike in the Maze Prison, during which 10 republican prisoners died. At the time, Cuba was outspoken in its support of the prison protesters and in its condemnation of British government policy in Northern Ireland.
The republican links to Cuba have been in existence a long time. Over the years, the Castro regime has given haven to on-the-run IRA members. Among the most prominent is Evelyn Glenholmes, who arrived in Cuba in 1991, according to reliable sources. Glenholmes was a prominent member of the IRA from the 1970s onward. She is believed to have been involved in the attempted assassination of a leading Catholic judge, Basil Kelly, in Belfast in 1983. Later, she was linked to an arms and explosives find in England. Glenholmes fled to the Irish Republic but escaped extradition to Britain when an Irish judge ruled that due to a misspelling of the name on the warrant — “Glenholme” — he could not be sure that the name referred to the person before him. To Britain’s fury, she was released and fled to Cuba. There she acted as a kind of ambassador for the republican movement. In 1996, she was replaced by Niall Connolly. Connolly was one of the so-called “Bogota Three” arrested by Colombian police in August this year. The other two are James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, both alleged to be high-ranking IRA members.
Speculation still swirls around the question of what the IRA has been doing in Colombia since 1997. U.S. officials have made it plain on more than one occasion that there would be serious consequences for Sinn Fein’s status in the U.S. if it were proven that the IRA has been helping the Colombian group with weapons training and testing, as has been alleged.
Meanwhile, rumors that pressure is being placed on congressmen and their aides to halt their inquiry as it is a threat to the peace process has been denied by senior congressional staff.
When asked if Sen. Edward Kennedy had been approached to intervene with the House Committee on International Relations, a senior aide said, “I don’t believe so.”