Northern Ireland news

Bishop vows no IRA racketeeting following Divis Demolition

Divis flats, Belfast in 1982
Dr Éamon Phoenix

FUTURE Catholic primate Cardinal Cahal Daly was pressing for the demolition of controversial high-rise Belfast flats in 1987 - promising there would be "no IRA racketeering" in any subsequent redevelopment.

The Irish Government of Garret FitzGerald was keen to see the demolition of the Divis Flats complex in west Belfast as an early fruit of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 according to this year’s Belfast releases.

This would, they believed, undermine Provisional IRA support in the area.

In a despatch from the British Embassy in Dublin to the Foreign and Colonial Office in London, the ambassador, Sir Alan Goodison reported that he had been given a record of a private conversation between then Bishop Cahal Daly of Down and Connor and members of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) by the Irish official , Michael Lillis.

"One particular project he [the Bishop] would wish to see undertaken as soon as possible after the Agreement is the demolition of the Divis Flats complex.

"The Provisionals are very strong there, not least because they have consistently supported the residents," the typed note from the DFA claimed.

Dr Daly was prepared to make a Church-owned former British military base at MacRory Park available for public housing.

Goodison went on: "If this happens he [Bishop Daly] will ensure that the Housing Association and labour employed is local and not subject to IRA racketeering."

If the Divis complex were destroyed, Mr Lillis told the Ambassador, not only would the residents acquire better housing "but the Provisionals would lose one of their key areas".

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