Northern Ireland news

Almost 800 previously confidential files released by PRONI today

Éamon Phoenix reports on the previously confidential files released today by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). Picture by Hugh Russell

ALMOST 800 previously confidential files have been released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) today under the 30/20-year rules.

The documents relate mainly to 1991, though a number feature earlier years when some of the most controversial killings of the Troubles took place.

In all, 662 files are fully open while 189 have been subjected to 'blanking out' of some of their content, while 94 files remain closed which mainly concerning individual prisoners.

During the year 1991 in Northern Ireland, there were attempts by the secretary of state, Peter Brooke, to launch all-party talks on devolution against a background of mounting IRA and loyalist violence.

Files released today which examine events of earlier years relate to several controversial killings, including the shooting of a young Catholic man, Aidan McAnespie, at a British border checkpoint in Co Tyrone.

The deaths of three IRA members shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar also feature in the documents.

Files relating to the killings reveal how the then Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, "implored" the British government to keep the bodies of the three IRA members out of the Republic.

Mr Haughey urged that the RAF fly their remains straight to Belfast rather than allowing their families to bring them through Dublin, which would have been a propaganda coup for Sinn Féin.

Documents also look at Mr Haughey's views of the political situation in Northern Ireland, with files revealing how he was ruled by his emotions and had no real strategy in regard to Anglo-Irish relations.

The state papers also reveal the British government's efforts to influence the Vatican in its choice of a new Archbishop of Armagh.

After the sudden death of Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich in May 1990, the previously confidential files declassified today show that the NIO raised the issue of approaching the Holy See on the matter.

:: Reporting on the Belfast files for The Irish News is Dr Éamon Phoenix, a political historian, journalist and broadcaster and a member of the Taoiseach's Expert Advisory Group on Centenaries with additional reporting by Michael McHugh, Press Association.

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