Dessie Ellis, a Sinn Fein member of the Irish parliament, has been linked with 50 murders committed during the Troubles according to new documents released by the British government.
The Irish Independent newspaper reports that secret internal communications within the British government suggest that former IRA member Ellis was forensically linked to the deaths in both the Republic and in Northern Ireland.
Another internal memo describes Ellis as a ‘leading Provisional IRA member.’
Now the Sinn Fein representative for Dublin North-West, Ellis was sentenced to 10 years in prison on explosives charges in the 1980s.
The papers containing the sensation claims date from 1982 and have been released by Britain’s National Archive.
Ellis refused to comment. He told the Irish Independent: “No, I won’t be saying anything.”
Asked if he disputed the claims, he replied: “I don’t want to comment on anything said by the Brits. I wouldn’t be bothered.”
The latest claims are seen as hugely embarrassing for Sinn Fein which has been heavily criticised in the Irish parliament for its links to the IRA.
Both Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his deputy Eamon Gilmore have attacked Sinn Fein’s IRA links in recent weeks.
On the last sitting of the house before the Christmas break, Labour Party leader Gilmore asked Sinn Fein’s Mary-Lou McDonald: “How many bodies are buried on this island because of Sinn Fein?”
The Irish Independent also reports that 60-year-old Ellis refused to detail his position in the IRA during the Troubles.
All he has ever said is that he was ‘at the highest levels.’
Ellis said in a recently published book about his hometown of Finglas that he became involved in republicanism from an early age, first in the civil rights marches and later in the ‘armed struggle.’
Ellis was initially arrested in Dublin in May 1981 but jumped bail and fled to Canada, from where he crossed the border into the United States. He was arrested in Buffalo, New York, in 1982 on immigration offences.
The paper reports that an internal communication marked ‘secret’ from the British embassy in Washington states: “As you know, one of those arrested has turned out on investigation to be Desmond Ellis, who was arrested in Dublin in May 1981 for possession of electronic remote-controlled devices.
“We understand that Ellis is linked by forensic evidence to some 50 murders in Northern Ireland and the Republic.”
The 1982 communication also states that Ellis was wanted in Dublin. It says: “Given his record, we hoped that steps could be made to ensure that he was not simply sent back to Canada following next Tuesday’s (immigration) court hearing and escape from justice.”
Ellis was later extradited to Ireland. In 1983 he was convicted by the Special Criminal Court where he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.
The paper says that in 1990, he was the first person charged under the 1987 Extradition Act for an explosives charge in England.
Ellis went on a hunger strike that lasted 37 days in protest against his pending extradition to England. He was eventually acquitted in London.