The IRA's Florida pipeline

Convictions: Gun-running to Ireland is real, criminal and not the least bit romantic.

June 15, 2000

THE CONVICTIONS of three men for running guns from Florida to the Provisional IRA in Ireland, following the guilty pleas of two accomplices, casts an obligation on that organization to prove its commitment to putting its weapons permanently beyond use.

The guns were mailed after the IRA had declared a cease-fire and after its partner organization, Sinn Fein, had signed on to a power-sharing regime in Northern Ireland that required the IRA to disarm. The IRA cannot honestly decommission arms while importing more.

IRA-Sinn Fein's good faith in the Good Friday Accord has been a sticking point for Unionists and the rationale for the accord's rejectionists. The IRA has kept its cease-fire with security forces but not ended its reign of terror over Catholic slums in Northern Ireland. It stands accused of one recent murder that had the look of a punishment killing. Loyalist terrorists are doing the same in their communities.

But the verdicts in Florida also convey a message for gullible Americans tempted to fund anyone claiming to be an Irish rebel. The ringleader admitted he was an IRA soldier sent to procure arms, claiming it was to prevent the weapons from going to splinter groups out to destroy the Good Friday Accord.

American donors were not on trial. But any American who gives money to kill in the name of Ireland is an enemy of that nation in the eyes of most of its people, South and North, Catholic and Protestant.

Breakup of this ring came from good cooperation among the FBI, British and Irish police. The FBI says it is investigating other rings. The outcome of that can have a bearing both on Sinn Fein-IRA's good faith in the Good Friday Accord and on the moral complicity of any American donors to future terrorism and murder.

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