IRA Ceasefire: Patriarch expects a republican split: IRA veteran who founded Noraid says Gerry Adams has 'sold out'

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'I DON'T think very much of it,' says Michael Flannery, who first joined the IRA in 1916, shortly before the Easter Rising. 'I don't think there should be a ceasefire without any conditions.'

Speaking from his home in Jackson Heights, New York, yesterday, Mr Flannery made clear that he thought the only condition worth negotiating was the departure of British troops from Ireland.

Mr Flannery, 92, is considered by many Irish republicans as the conscience of their movement in the United States. He considers Gerry Adams to have joined a long line of Irish republican leaders since Eamon de Valera who have 'sold out'.

His bleak view is significant because he is the patriarch of republicans in the US. If the IRA splits once again between militants and moderates it will be because of men like Michael Flannery.

He has no doubt that this will happen. 'There will always be an IRA,' he says. 'If one gives up then there will be another IRA. This fight is not going to stop.'

He denies refusing to see Joe Cahill, a veteran member of the Provisional IRA now touring the US to explain the ceasefire, but says: 'I don't know what we would talk about.'

Having gone to the US in 1927 to reorganise republican sympathisers, Mr Flannery has been a critical figure in Irish-American politics. When Sinn Fein and the IRA split again in 1968-69, Mr Flannery founded Noraid.

As Mr Flannery was recalling past betrayals, Joe Cahill was telling a closed meeting of some 300 Provisional sympathisers and members of Noraid in Germantown, Pennsylvania, that the IRA was not being double-crossed. According to one witness, Mr Cahill justified the ceasefire by saying: 'This is the first stage in the final stage of the struggle.'

Responding to written questions handed up from the audience, Mr Cahill said the IRA would never surrender its weapons, explaining that 'the nationalist community would never be left undefended again as in 1969'.