Who in Sinn Féin was IRA?

A study by Village has found that just under half of Sinn Féin's most senior elected representatives on both sides of the Border have been IRA members and some remain so. By Suzanne Breen

Fifteen of Sinn Féin's 35 MPs, TDs, MEPs, and Assembly members have a history of IRA involvement or have convictions. Of the party's four Westminster MPs, two currently sit on the Army Council – Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness; Pat Doherty is a former Army Council member; only Michelle Gildernew has no record of IRA involvement.

Of the party's five TDs, two have been jailed for IRA offences – Arthur Morgan and Martin Ferris who currently sit on the Army Council. The remaining three TDs – Aengus O Snodaigh, Sean Crowe and Caoimhghin O Caolain have no IRA convictions.

Neither of Sinn Féin's MEPs, Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún, were ever IRA members. 10 of Sinn Féin's 24 Northern Ireland Assembly members have convictions or are past or present IRA members. The remaining 16 have no IRA convictions.

Sinn Féin MEPs

Mary Lou McDonald – No IRA convictions

Bairbre De Brún – No IRA convictions

Sinn Féin MPs

Gerry Adams – The Sinn Féin president has no IRA convictions and, like many of the IRA's most senior and long-serving leaders, has spent remarkably little time in jail. He currently sits on the Army Council, according to Michael McDowell, and also according to Republican and security forces that cannot be named. Although he denies membership, he has never sued despite it being reported in countless books, newspaper articles, and TV and radio programmes.

He was interned on the Maidstone prison ship in March 1972 and then freed four months later to take part in secret talks in London between the IRA and the then British Secretary of State, Willie Whitelaw.

Adams was interned again in July 1973 and was later sentenced after two failed escape attempts. He was finally released in February 1977.

Martin McGuinness – Sinn Féin's chief negotiator was twice convicted of IRA membership in the Republic. In 1973, he was arrested in Donegal close to a car filled with 250lbs of explosives and 5,000 rounds of ammunition. He was sentenced to six months. He told the Dublin court: "I am a member of the Derry brigade of Oglaigh na hÉireann and am very, very proud of it."

A year later, he was again jailed on membership charges and spent most of 1974 in prison. He has never been convicted in the North, although he spent several months in Belfast's Crumlin Road jail in 1976 before membership charges against him were dropped.

Like Gerry Adams, he was on the IRA delegation which met Whitelaw in 1972.

Again like Adams, he is a long-standing Army Council member according to Michael McDowell and also according to Republican and security forces that cannot be named. A former officer commanding (OC) the IRA in Derry, he would admit to the Bloody Sunday tribunal only that he was the organisation's second-in-command there. He insists he left the IRA in the 1970s, but refuses to say why.

Pat Doherty – The Sinn Féin vice-president was born in Glasgow of emigrant parents and returned to Donegal in 1968. His brother Hugh is one of the Balcombe Street gang convicted of six murders and a string of IRA attacks in the early 1970s in London.

For someone lacking an operational IRA background, Pat Doherty's rise to such a senior level in the republican movement has perplexed many. He has previously been named in the House of Commons as an Army Council member. A civil engineer by profession, Doherty's job is often to locate safe places in the wilds of Donegal for IRA meetings and training camps, according to security and Republican sources that cannot be named.

Michelle Gildernew – Sinn Féin's only female MP comes from a well-known nationalist family which was at the centre of the civil rights' campaign against housing discrimination in Caledon in 1968. She has no history of IRA involvement.


Martin Ferris – Twice convicted of IRA membership, he was arrested aboard the Marita Ann, which was carrying seven tonnes of IRA guns from the US. He served 10 years in Portlaoise prison. In 2002, he was arrested and questioned at length by gardaí over a vigilante attack on an alleged drug dealer, but was released without charge. He sits on the Army Council.

Arthur Morgan – He served seven years in Long Kesh after he was caught in the 1970s in a boat smuggling weapons across Carlingford Lough.

Aengus O Snodaigh – He has no IRA convictions. This week, he said he had "no idea" why his posters were present in a van occupied by convicted IRA men. His election agent and close political associate, Niall Binaid, was jailed just before Christmas for IRA membership.

Sean Crowe – No IRA convictions

Caoimhghin O Caolain – No convictions


Michael Ferguson – Sentenced to 12 years for bank robbery, kidnapping and weapons' possession in 1975. Held a bank manager and family hostage in the operation to raise funds for the INLA.

Fra McCann – imprisoned in the H-Blocks in the 1970s for a firearms' offence

Gerry Adams (see above)

Bairbre de Brún (see above)

Gerry Kelly – Sentenced to life imprisonment in 1973 along with the Price sisters for the Old Bailey bombings in which 250 people were injured. Ten years later, he shot a prison officer as he led the mass escape from the H-Blocks.

He was recaptured in Amsterdam three years later and extradited. He was finally released from the H-Blocks in 1989.

Kathy Stanton – Imprisoned in Armagh jail in the 1970s for IRA-related offences

Alex Maskey – He was twice interned during the 1970s. Just before he was interned on the second occasion, he received a 12-month conditional discharge after stealing £563 from the Northern Bank in Waring Street in Belfast.

He grabbed the cash which had been sitting on the counter. A customer ran after him and made a citizen's arrest. The judge accepted it had been an impulsive act. Maskey was later convicted of trying to escape from Long Kesh during internment.

Philip McGuigan – No IRA convictions.

Catriona Ruane – A former director of the West Belfast Festival and chairperson of the Colombia Three 'Bring Them Home' campaign, she has no IRA convictions.

Willie Clarke – No IRA convictions.

Raymond McCartney – A former hunger-striker, he was convicted of two murders in Derry in 1977. The first was of Catholic policeman Patrick McNulty. The second was of the manager of the local Du Pont factory, Jeffrey Agate, one of a series of IRA killings of businessmen who were accused of stabilising the Northern economy.

Mitchel McLaughlin – The Sinn Féin chairman is a former refrigeration engineer who worked in Saudia Arabia from 1979-80. His lack of an IRA CV causes considerable mirth in Sinn Féin ranks.

Francie Brolly – A former prominent member of the civil rights' movement, he has no IRA convictions

Barry McElduff – A Queen's University graduate, he was given an 18-month suspended sentence in 1992 for helping in the false imprisonment of a Protestant whom the IRA suspected of being an informer. The victim was interrogated by three masked IRA men in Sinn Féin's Dungannon offices. The court heard that McElduff had saved the victim from execution.

Pat Doherty (see above)

Tom O'Reilly – No IRA convictions.

Michelle Gildernew – (see above)

Francie Molloy – He was director of elections for Bobby Sands and Owen

Carron during the 1981 hunger-strike, but has no IRA convictions. In 1987 he was given an absolute discharge for taking part in an illegal parade.

Geraldine Dougan – No IRA convictions

Martin McGuinness – (see above)

John O'Dowd – No IRA convictions

Conor Murphy – He was charged with conspiracy to murder RUC officers but was acquitted. However, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment for IRA membership and possession of explosive substances with intent to endanger life in 1982.

Davy Hyland – No IRA convictions.

Patricia O'Rawe – No IRA convictions.p