Bombings got point across - Ambassador
Bombings got point across - Ambassador

The British ambassador to Ireland, Arthur Galsworthy, said he believed the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974 had been useful.

Thirty-three died in attacks which are believed to have been carried out by the unionist paramilitary UVF in collusion with British Crown forces.

“I think the Irish have taken the point,” Galsworthy wrote in a memo, as Irish opinion turned against the IRA and the conflict in the North.

He said the bombs had hardened attitudes against the Republican Movement and had given Irish people “a greater insight” into the views of Northern Protestants.

Analysing the Irish reaction to the atrocity, he noted that “there is no sign of any general anti-Northern Protestant reaction”, adding that “the predictable attempt by the IRA to pin the blame on the British (British agents, the SAS, etc) has made no headway at all”.

The minister for foreign affairs Garret FitzGerald confirmed to Galsworthy that Dublin’s view was that “popular hostility appeared to be directed more against the IRA”.

Galsworthy took a clear pleasure in the hardening of attitudes. He smugly recounted anecdotal evidence of a change in attitudes, and wrote: “It is only now that the South has experienced violence that they are reacting in the way that the North has sought for so long.”

But hew warned that “it would be... a psychological mistake for us to rub this point in... I think the Irish have taken the point”.

During the period of the bombings, British officials were in regular contact with the UVF leadership, according to the records.

In the North, hardline unionists displayed undisguised glee.

“I am very happy about the bombings,” said Sammy Smyth of the Ulster Workers’ Council. “There is a war with the Free State (26 Counties) and now we are laughing at them.”

During the UWC strike, WIlliam Craig, leader of the ultra-hardline Vanguard Unionist Party, describe the sectarian murder of Catholics as “unfortunate but understandable - if democracy is being trampled into the ground you are entitled to take whatever action is needed”.


The newly-released State papers also reveal that the Dublin government of 1974 was paranoid about political activists and ordered the 26-County Army to spy on even the most marginal political campaigns and discussions.

In particular, the letters page of the An Phoblacht newspaper was scoured for evidence of anti-establishment political opinion.

In one of the few such files to be released, the activity by Anthony Coughlan against Irish participation in the European Economic Community was tracked.

Coughlan, an inveterate political campaigner and letter-writer, was placed under intense surveillance, his movements tracked in minute detail.

The report notes that, “Tony Coughlan has been invited to a conference of the British-Irish Association in Oxford on weekend 5-7 July 1974. He has arranged to pass through London on 4 or 5 July. He is likely to stay with Desmond Greaves overnight 4-7-74.”

It is clear that a file was also kept on Mr Greaves, a British-based left-wing historian who died in 1988, although the file has not yet been made public.

Even the most minor references to 26-County politics in An Phoblacht were tracked, and Coughlan’s appearances in the letters column generated considerable anxiety.

A report also tells how a small group of activists had discussed Wa broad-based movement for democracy, unity and independence, “as a credible alternative to the Fianna Fail versus Coalition type of politics.”

Among the participants to be present, the report continues, were Mr Coughlan, the scientist Dr Roy Johnston and anti-apartheid campaigner Mr Kader Asmal.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News