Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams helped the military wing of the African National Congress pull off one of the biggest bomb attacks of the war against apartheid in South Africa.
A new book, written by late ANC cabinet minister and Trinity College professor Kader Asmal, makes the sensational claim.
Asmal, a founder of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, died at the age of 76 earlier this year and his memoirs have just been published.
In his book, Asmal confirms that the IRA helped to carry out the 1980 bombing of the Sasol oil refinery in Sasolburg, near Johannesburg, which struck right at the heart of the apartheid regime.
Asmal also claims that Irish volunteers, recruited from the IRA with the assistance of Adams, carried out reconnaissance missions on the refinery before it was bombed in June 1980.
The attack was carried out by the MK, the military wing of the ANC, many of whose members received basic training in guerilla warfare in Ireland courtesy of the IRA.
In the book, entitled ‘Politics In My Blood’, Asmal claims that Gerry Adams helped to source the IRA volunteers to carry out the reconnaissance mission with the help of Michael O’Riordan, then general secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland.
A noted academic who lived in Ireland at the time, Asmal was approached in the late 1970s to help arrange training for MK cadres.
“I was very keen, but it was a delicate task because it would of necessity involve the IRA. None of us wished to place the ANC office in London in jeopardy or fuel the allegations of connivance between the ANC and IRA,” he writes in his book.
“I went to see the general secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland, Michael O’Riordan, who was a man of great integrity and whom I trusted to keep a secret.
“He in turn contacted Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin and it was arranged that two military experts would come to Dublin to meet two MK personnel and take them to a safe place for two weeks of intensive training.
“I believe the expertise the MK cadres obtained was duly imparted to others in the ANC camps in Angola.”
In the book, Asmal also reveals that he engaged with the IRA to source two people to conduct the reconnaissance operation on the Sasol plan, then South Africa’s major oil refinery and vital to the maintenance of the apartheid state.
He writes: “Once again, I arranged the task with Adams of Sinn Féin, through the mediation of O’Riordan.
“Though I no longer recall the names of the persons who volunteered, if indeed I ever knew them, they laid the ground for one of the most dramatic operations carried out by MK personnel.
“The 1980 attack was one of the most daring acts of military insurgency in the struggle against apartheid.
“While the damage to the refinery was, according to the apartheid regime, relatively superficial, the propaganda value and its effect on the morale of the liberation movement were inestimable.
“Yet only my wife Louise and I knew the attack on Sasolburg was the result of reconnaissance carried out by members of the IRA.
“At the time of the Sasolburg attack, I was very much in tune with Ireland and with Irish needs and aspirations. I was a strong believer in Irish independence and in a united Ireland. But I never supported the IRA.
“The attack on Sasolburg had nothing to do with the IAAM in Ireland, and nobody knew about the story behind it except Louise and me.
“When the plant blew up, we were so excited I suppose some of the other IAAM people must have wondered if we had any connection or involvement.”
After working as a law professor at Trinity College Dublin for 27 years, Asmal returned to South Africa in 1990 and became Minister of Education there after the ground breaking elections of 1999.