Irish faction leader has 'no recollection' of letter

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PROINSIAS DE ROSSA, now leader of the six-strong group of Democratic Left TDs (MPs) in the Dail, said yesterday he had 'no recollection' of the letter apparently signed by himself and Sean Garland seeking Soviet funds in September 1986. 'It doesn't ring a bell with me,' he said, writes Alan Murdoch.

Mr Garland, whose signature also appears on the letter, was abroad, according to Workers' Party colleagues last week, believed to be on a party delegation to Korea.

Asked if he had, as the letter suggested, been in Moscow at that time, Mr De Rossa said he could not remember definitely, and would need to check office diaries after today's Irish Bank Holiday to be certain. 'I may have been - I was in Moscow at some time in the Eighties. I did a fair bit of travelling around then.'

On the letter's reference to 'special activities' which it said provided vital funds making up the shortfall in the Workers' Party's running costs, he said: 'If I had written a letter of that kind I'm sure I would have remembered it. In 1986 I had no particular role in the financial area. I wouldn't even have been privy to that kind of information.'

Asked if he knew of, or had ever discussed with Mr Garland, the idea of having five party members trained for special 'security' operations by Soviet experts, he replied: 'Not at all, no. I'd be quite alarmed at such a suggestion.'

Citing acrimonious battles last February at the special conference that precipitated the split in the Workers' Party (at which one party MP accused Mr Garland of having 'a secret army'), Mr De Rossa said: 'Certainly, when you consider that debate, there were revelations around that were a shock to a lot of people.' The conference battle centred on the role of the Official IRA within the Workers' Party. The Officials were supposedly disbanded as an armed force in the mid-Seventies, a position the WP leadership stuck to rigidly until this year's rupture over the issue. Mr De Rossa singled out as of particular significance 'Sean Garland's claim that there was a right to defence in all circumstances'.

Neither he nor, to his knowledge, the party had ever received grants from the Soviet Communist Party. When allegations to that effect first emerged from Moscow a year ago, 'I approached Sean Garland about it and I was assured by him none had been received'.

Last December Mr De Rossa said he was considering going to Moscow himself to investigate the claims. 'We tried that (approach) but we got no co-operation.'

(Photograph omitted)