[Sinn Fein]

11 April 2001

Dáil debate sought on Arms Trial revelations

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has sought a special Dáil debate on the revelations of RTE's Prime Time special on the Arms Trial which show that the key witness statement of Colonel Michael Hefferon was altered in the Deaprtment of Justice in order to protect the then Minister for Justice Jim Gibbons. The Cavan/Monaghan deputy said:

``At a time when defenceless nationalists in the North of Ireland were under daily attack, powerful elements in this State conspired to scapegoat people involved in the effort to import arms for their defence while the knowledge and approval of the operation by the then Minister for Defence Jim Gibbons was covered up.

``These revelations confirm what many people believed over the years. It is clear evidence not only that the arms importation was approved at the most senior level but that there was a conspiracy to censor vital evidence which, if available, may well have meant that prosecutions would not have been brought against defendants in the trial.

``On a political level these revelations highlight the way in which the political establishment in this State turned its back on the nationalists of the Six Counties who were met with violence from the Orange state when they demanded civil rights. In the entire controversy it is often forgotten that the reason arms were sought in the first place was to defend nationalist communities which were under attack with hundreds of people being forced out of their homes and many being murdered by loyalists mobs, B-Specials and the RUC.''

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