The State Papers
The State Papers
A round-up of some of the other issues raised in the release of state papers over the New Year.


  • British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, was infuriated by the findings of the Compton Report which examined the manner in which internment was implemented in August 1971. In a confidential minute to the Cabinet Secretary, Burke Trend, Heath said that the Compton report was “one of the most unbalanced, ill-judged reports I have ever read.” The report described the beating and general torture of hooded prisoners as “ill-treatment”. Heath declared this would “infuriate Commanders in the army, undermine the position of the soldiers and the RUC in Northern Ireland and produce grave international repercussions for us throughout the world.”

  • The British government had decided to allow IRA hunder strikers to die in prison three years before Margaret Thatcher became prime minister. “Any sign of weakness or compromise will be unlikely to produce the desired results,” declared a memorandum from January 1976.

    * The use of the GPO steps by republicans angered then Posts and Telegraphs Minister Conor Cruise O’Brien. He wrote to Justice Minister Paddy Cooney in January 1974: “On the whole, I think the balance of the argument tilts decisively in favour of clearing these people out.” Dr O’Brien said turning republicans out of this “hallowed area” would drive home clearly that Sinn Féin and the IRA were no longer regarded as having a legitimate, or semi-legitimate, role in the country.

  • Vigorous objections to the admission of Chilean refugees after the 1973 military coup were raised by the Department of Justice in Dublin on the grounds that the people concerned were likely to be “extreme left-wing activists” who would support the Provisional IRA.

  • The use of torture against republicans in the North after August 1971 constituted a potential public relations problem, according to a British Foreign Office official. It was recommended that only the charge of “ill-treatment” against the victims be admitted in response to questions on the subject.

  • When newspapers carried IRA sympathy notices in 1974, the Irish government was advised by its Press secretary that one option was to prosecute. Publication of notices by the IRA was covered under the censorship restrictions of the Offences Against the State Act. The government was told the options were either “apply the law, prosecute the media for publication of seditious matter”, or “continue speaking out against ambiguity to violence”.

  • Dominic Adams, a brother of the Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams, protested to a civil representative in 1973 about the actions in west Belfast by the British army, who, he said, had “begun a campaign to return the area to darkness. Their latest tactic is to remove the copper plates of the lights.” A letter in the file from the headquarters of the 39 Infantry Brigade confirmed that the British army had extinguished some of the lights, but also blamed “yobbos”.

  • The 26-County Army’s reluctance to co-operate with British Crown forces arose, in part, out of nervousness about superior IRA marksmanship along the Border, according to a British army officer, and not just because they did not want to be seen to collaborate.

  • When a Bill was introduced in the 26 Counties in March 1974 allowing the sale of contraceptives to married people, the attorney general suggested there be a provision to allow a garda ask people suspected of having illegal contraceptives if they were married. If someone said they were married, the garda should be able to ask where and when the marriage took place.

  • Efforts by President Childers to have greater contact with the Army in his role as supreme commander were rebuffed by the Fine Gael taoiseach of the day, Mr Liam Cosgrave, and his friend and party colleague, the late Patrick Donegan, who was minister for defence. A memorandum warned that newspapers might speculate as to the reasons for “unprecedented visits to military establishments or participation in military functions” by the President. President Childers died on November 17th, 1974.

  • The US presidential candidate Mr Ralph Nader warned in 1973 that The Irish Times had withheld an article on the problems associated with thalidomide at a time when the drug was presumed to be safe, according to files released in the National Archives.

  • Allegations that garda police did not speak Irish and “poking fun at those who were speaking it” when then President Eamon de Valera visited Clear Island in 1966 gave rise to a major investigation.

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