State papers

The Northern Ireland Assembly’s decision to reduce the limit for the release of government files from 30 to 20 years is being phased in over 10 years meaning two years’ worth of records are being released each year.

Likewise, a Bill to amend the National Archives Act, 1986 has started on its legislative journey through the Dáil and if enacted will bring Ireland into line with Britain with a phased implementation of a 20-year rule, replacing the current 30-year interval.

Anglo-Irish relations

After his defeat in the Irish general election in February 1987, Garret FitzGerald wrote a final letter to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In it, he penned: “I am more convinced now as I leave office that in the action we took together, aided by our ministers and by some extraordinary able and dedicated civil servants, our instinct, yours and mine, was right and our judgement sound.

“It is not for me to comment, on the domestic politics of Britain, but I think I am entitled to say that for Ireland’s sake I hope you are returned to power.”

Elected as Taoiseach of a Fianna Fáil minority government in March, Charles Haughey met with Margaret Thatcher in Brussels that June. Haughey attempted to reassure the disconsolate Prime Minister, telling her: “You have stood firm and that is an historic contribution to Anglo-Irish relations. You must not forget.”

Thatcher pressed Haughey to augment the budget allocation for cross-border security, and throughout the year he came under pressure to amend the Extradition Act, 1965, to remove a political offence exception (securing immunity from extradition). Many within the Fianna Fáil grassroots were vocally opposed to such an amendment.

In November, the Enniskillen bomb provoked a widespread wave of revulsion. The following month, Thatcher made clear to Haughey her dissatisfaction over the extradition issue. “I am very angry about this. My feelings go deeper than anger. [British Attorney General Patrick Mayhew] tells me there may never be another extradition case again. I know from what you told me that you have extreme difficulties with your people, but where are they living? They are going back to the Black and Tans. Or is it 400 years ago?”

On the Anglo-Irish Agreement, she added: “I did not have to sign… I could have got by without it. The only thing it has brought me is criticism and bad blood with the unionists.”

Loughgall

An SAS ambush at Loughgall, County Armagh produced the biggest loss of life for the Provisional IRA in a single incident during ‘the Troubles’ also costing the life of an uninvolved civilian, Anthony Hughes.

After the incident, then Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister, Brian Lenihan snr stated: “The Irish Government rejects utterly the warped policies of the Provisional IRA. It is the leadership of the IRA who trap young people into the cycle of violence that has brought so much suffering to nationalists and unionists alike. It is that leadership who are responsible for putting those young lives at risk.”

Four days later, in the Dáil, Lenihan labelled the IRA’s campaign “morally wrong”. British Secretary of State Tom King privately expressed his gratitude at Lenihan’s comments and indicated that he wished to publish a letter of thanks. However, Irish officials in Belfast suggested that this course of action would be counterproductive.

After a briefing by British officials, Daithí Ó Ceallaigh, a diplomat at the Belfast-based Anglo-Irish Secretariat gave word to Dublin that “one particular security benefit has been the removal of three very experienced paramilitaries – Lynagh, Paddy Kelly and McKearney.” David Donoghue, a Foreign Affairs official in Belfast reported back to Dublin that Bishop Edward Daly conveyed that he was “struck by the lack of sympathy in the Derry area with the dead IRA men” and that the Catholic hierarchy in general, were in outright opposition to the IRA.

However, Lenihan also received a backlash for his comments, including from Fianna Fáil grassroots, Irish America, some Catholic clergy and others. As such, Lenihan urged King to “be mindful of the need to avoid any sense of triumphalism on the part of your authorities”. The Secretary of State responded: “My advice is that group had at least 50-50 murders to their score over the years.”

The Northern Ireland Assembly’s decision to reduce the limit for the release of government files from 30 to 20 years is being phased in over 10 years meaning two years’ worth of records are being released each year.

Likewise, a Bill to amend the National Archives Act, 1986 has started on its legislative journey through the Dáil and if enacted will bring Ireland into line with Britain with a phased implementation of a 20-year rule, replacing the current 30-year interval.

Anglo-Irish relations

After his defeat in the Irish general election in February 1987, Garret FitzGerald wrote a final letter to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In it, he penned: “I am more convinced now as I leave office that in the action we took together, aided by our ministers and by some extraordinary able and dedicated civil servants, our instinct, yours and mine, was right and our judgement sound.

“It is not for me to comment, on the domestic politics of Britain, but I think I am entitled to say that for Ireland’s sake I hope you are returned to power.”

Elected as Taoiseach of a Fianna Fáil minority government in March, Charles Haughey met with Margaret Thatcher in Brussels that June. Haughey attempted to reassure the disconsolate Prime Minister, telling her: “You have stood firm and that is an historic contribution to Anglo-Irish relations. You must not forget.”

Thatcher pressed Haughey to augment the budget allocation for cross-border security, and throughout the year he came under pressure to amend the Extradition Act, 1965, to remove a political offence exception (securing immunity from extradition). Many within the Fianna Fáil grassroots were vocally opposed to such an amendment.

In November, the Enniskillen bomb provoked a widespread wave of revulsion. The following month, Thatcher made clear to Haughey her dissatisfaction over the extradition issue. “I am very angry about this. My feelings go deeper than anger. [British Attorney General Patrick Mayhew] tells me there may never be another extradition case again. I know from what you told me that you have extreme difficulties with your people, but where are they living? They are going back to the Black and Tans. Or is it 400 years ago?”

On the Anglo-Irish Agreement, she added: “I did not have to sign… I could have got by without it. The only thing it has brought me is criticism and bad blood with the unionists.”

Loughgall

An SAS ambush at Loughgall, County Armagh produced the biggest loss of life for the Provisional IRA in a single incident during ‘the Troubles’ also costing the life of an uninvolved civilian, Anthony Hughes.

After the incident, then Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister, Brian Lenihan snr stated: “The Irish Government rejects utterly the warped policies of the Provisional IRA. It is the leadership of the IRA who trap young people into the cycle of violence that has brought so much suffering to nationalists and unionists alike. It is that leadership who are responsible for putting those young lives at risk.”

Four days later, in the Dáil, Lenihan labelled the IRA’s campaign “morally wrong”. British Secretary of State Tom King privately expressed his gratitude at Lenihan’s comments and indicated that he wished to publish a letter of thanks. However, Irish officials in Belfast suggested that this course of action would be counterproductive.

After a briefing by British officials, Daithí Ó Ceallaigh, a diplomat at the Belfast-based Anglo-Irish Secretariat gave word to Dublin that “one particular security benefit has been the removal of three very experienced paramilitaries – Lynagh, Paddy Kelly and McKearney.” David Donoghue, a Foreign Affairs official in Belfast reported back to Dublin that Bishop Edward Daly conveyed that he was “struck by the lack of sympathy in the Derry area with the dead IRA men” and that the Catholic hierarchy in general, were in outright opposition to the IRA.

However, Lenihan also received a backlash for his comments, including from Fianna Fáil grassroots, Irish America, some Catholic clergy and others. As such, Lenihan urged King to “be mindful of the need to avoid any sense of triumphalism on the part of your authorities”. The Secretary of State responded: “My advice is that group had at least 40-50 murders to their score over the years.”

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