By Ray O’Hanlon
The alleged links between unnamed “Roman Catholic charities” and the Provisional IRA, cited recently by U.S. officials at a symposium in the Persian Gulf state of Abu Dhabi, were stated to have been in Boston, the Echo has learned.
U.S. officials cited prosecution of “Roman Catholic charities” tied to the IRA during the symposium at which they sought to convince Arab leaders that terrorist investigations are not being aimed solely at Muslim and Arab groups.
The New York Times reported this assertion in a recent a front page report on the symposium which was aimed at regulating more closely various charities that might be connected to al Q’da and Osama bin Laden.
The page one report stated that U.S. officials had explained to Arab representatives how charities are regulated in America.
“At the symposium in Abu Dhabi, American officials described that process, citing examples of how Roman Catholic charities had been prosecuted for funneling money to the Irish Republican Army,” the Times report stated.
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“That discussion helped ease Arab concerns that the United States was singling out Muslim and Arab groups in its terrorism investigations, one participant said,” the report added.
The Echo has since learned that while the Times report did not specify which U.S. officials made the statement, or where in the U.S. it was actually directed, the Times understood that the statement was in fact made by FBI agents attending the Abu Dhabi meeting and that they were referring specifically to Boston.
According to the Times, the U.S. delegation at the symposium was led by officials from the State Department and was also composed of representatives from the FBI, National Security Council and the Treasury Department.
Calls to the State Department and the FBI in Boston had not been returned by presstime.
Ray Flynn, former mayor of Boston, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and who is now national president of the group Catholic Alliance, said that the allegations of links between Roman Catholic charities and the IRA amounted to “wild accusations.”
Flynn said that while fund-raising events for the republican cause often followed church services during the worst years of the Troubles, especially during the 1981 hunger strikes, there had never been any links between the Catholic church or specifically Catholic organizations and “terrorists in Northern Ireland.”
“It’s professionally irresponsible for the FBI or anyone else to say something like that,” Flynn said.