State papers round-up
State papers round-up



More than a thousand files of British secrets, some of which relate to the the conflict in Ireland, were this week described as having “disappeared” from the British National Archive. A summary of some of the information contained in declassified state papers which were released by officials this week in both Dublin and London.


The Israeli ambassador to Britain revealed former DUP leader Ian Paisley contacted him “to obtain arms” in 1987. The Israeli ambassador, Yahuda Avner, told Ireland’s then ambassador in London that Mr Paisley wanted the weaponry for “border protection”.


Bishop of Derry Edward Daly claimed former IRA Commander and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had personally set up the meeting which led to the execution of IRA informer Frank Hegarty, the Dublin government was told in 1987.

Bishop Daly said Mr McGuinness would try to ‘keep his own hands clean’ but claimed he had run out of IRA Volunteers in the city due to Hegarty’s actions, and was keen to shore up his support base.

He claimed the former IRA commander had been doing “reckless things” at the time and that these actions would make Mr McGuinness “vulnerable if he were to come under media scrutiny”.

Mr McGuinness, who died last March, has never been questioned about Hegarty’s death and has always insisted he played no part in the killing.


British officials raised the prospect of erecting a physical border along the entire frontier between the Six and 26 Counties.

At a meeting between officials of both governments, the British said the idea of erecting an ‘iron curtain’ border along the lines of that separating East and West Germany was being considered.

A senior British official also considered selling advertising space on a major British Army checkpoint to “produce a pleasingly aesthetic effect on travellers”. Another suggestion to make the installation more acceptable was a large sign saying ‘Welcome to the Killeen checkpoint’.

The heavily-fortified Cloghogue/Killeen permanent vehicle checkpoint and border spypost was the target of routine rocket, bomb and gun attacks from the IRA at the time.


The Dublin government complained to British ministers about the harassment of vessels on Carlingford Lough by a British patrol boat manned by Royal Marine Commandos.

A memo noted that on October 21, 1991, a boarding party of Royal Marines had searched the yacht, ‘Gurlough’ in Carlingford Lough after which the crew had complained and made a number of allegations.

The crew said they were in Irish territorial waters and pointed out that the Marines had no right to board. Weapons were pointed at them while the boarding party claimed British ownership of the entire lough. They also deliberately drenched the yacht’s crew and warned that if they did not cooperate they would be taken to Warrenpoint (in County Down) where the RUC would arrest them.


The Birmingham Six’s Paddy Hill accused successive 26 County governments of abandoning them in their fight for freedom. In a handwritten letter from his cell in HMP Gartree on September 10 1987, the miscarriage of justice victim said they had been offered nothing but false hope and false promises.

At the time of the letter Mr Hill had been in jail while four different taoisigh took office - Liam Cosgrave, Jack Lynch, Garret Fitzgerald and Charles Haughey.

He said governments had done little or nothing to support him and the five others. “The only thing successive Irish governments have done is help to keep INNOCENT IRISHMEN in prison,” he wrote.


The Guildford Four’s Paul Hill pleaded with the Dublin government over prison chiefs’ refusal to let him see his daughter in private. Mr Hill said he had not had one unmonitored moment with her since her birth.

The miscarriage of justice victim described the limited access to his little girl an additional punishment on top of his life sentence. He said his daughter was suffering “extreme behavourial difficulties” because of his incarceration.

“After 13 years in prison for nothing I would assume I don’t ask a great deal, for how much is one expected to take,” he wrote.


The Guildford Four’s Gerry Conlon felt such despair after 12 years in prison that he was on the verge of killing himself.

While languishing in HMP Long Lartin in England in 1987, seven years after his father Giuseppe died in jail, the miscarrige of justice victim wrote to the Dublin government how he could not face another 18 years of “living hell”.

“I can assure you that I do not intend to serve it, I would much rather join my dear father,” he wrote.

“I can see that if my plight is not resolved in the near future that I will have to decide which form of protest I must take. This is not something I want to do but you can only suffer so much and to suffer it for something you didn’t do makes the suffering intolerable.”


An almost 90-minute incursion over the Border by a British RAF pilot, who flew as far south as Mullingar, prompted a diplomatic incident and major embarrassment on the part of the British authorities. The pilot, who had just arrived in Ireland a week before, spent an hour and a half patrolling the skies over Meath and Louth, using photo-reconnaissance equipment. At one point during the flight on December 30th, 1987, the aircraft came within just 23 miles of Dublin airport. A cable from Irish officials in Belfast to Dublin the following day said the British admitted the incursion and were “greatly embarrassed by it”.


A government decision to gift a disused statue of Queen Victoria to Australia was vigorously opposed by the then minister for finance John Bruton. The massive bronze statue was unveiled in 1908 by the British Lord Lieutenant, Lord Aberdeen, at Leinster House. Following independence it became an embarrassment and was moved into storage. Australian officials thanked the Irish government “profusely” for the gift, but the Irish Embassy there received a number of threatening and abusive phone calls to condemn it.


The DUP leader, the late Ian Paisley, complained to the British Direct Ruler Peter Brooke in 1990 about alleged attempts to smear him in the media over his taste for fast food. He referred to a story in The Economist in which a British source was quoted as hoping that Paisley “would eat himself to death on Kentucky Fried Chicken”.

The report followed a previously unreported 1987 incident, in which Ian Paisley hid in a car as he waited outside a County Meath takeaway on a rare trip south of the Border. The DUP leader was spotted by locals in Slane, County Meath, as he travelled to Dublin for the trial of his party colleague Peter Robinson. A report for the Dublin government said Paisley’s close associate, barrister Desmond Boal, “was forced to grab the food and to flee the scene without further ado”.

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